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Beaverton naturalization ceremony swears in 49 new citizens
on September 15, 2015 at 6:00 AM
They came from Scotland, Chile, Germany, Ukraine, Mexico, Russia, Fiji, South Korea, Taiwan and places in between and they all swore an oath to support and defend the United States.
Nearly 50 people from 25 countries raised their hands and made the vow during a naturalization ceremony, in which foreign-born residents become U.S. citizens, in the Beaverton Library auditorium Sept. 14.
It was the first naturalization ceremony held in Beaverton, according to city staff.
"It was something we were interested in because the city of Beaverton joined the Welcoming Cities and Counties Initiative and (naturalization ceremonies) is one thing they do," said Alexis Ball, Equity Outreach Coordinator.
Speaking during the ceremony, Mayor Denny Doyle called it the highlight of the city's National Welcoming week, which celebrates the contributions of immigrants to America. It kicked off with an international night market on Sept. 12.
Beaverton became an official Welcoming City in 2014, which means it commits to improving the quality of life and economic potential for immigrants and non-immigrants, according to the Welcoming America website.
"This is special for Beaverton," he said, citing local demographics. One in three Beaverton residents is a person of color and one in four was born outside the United States.
They came to the United States for a variety of reasons - a better future, a better education. Some came to join spouses already in Oregon. They had green cards and were already permanent residents, but they took the additional step of becoming citizens.Beaverton Naturalization Ceremony 49 people from 25 countries became U.S. citizens
Iranian-born Beaverton community leader and keynote speaker Manijeh Mehrnoosh moved to the United States in 1986, after the Iranian revolution, and became a citizen in 2004.
"People have said to me 'I found myself (in America). If I would have stayed in my country, I would have lost myself,'" she said.
"We are free here," Mehrnoosh said. "Above all I feel free."
All of the newly minted American citizens on Monday had met specific criteria before receiving their official citizenship certificates. They had to have a green card, had to live in the United States for at least five years, pass a civics/history test, read, write and speak English and pass a criminal background check.
A few said they were nervous about passing the civics/history test, but their children helped them study.
Here are a few of their stories:
*Consuelo Ehrich did it for her kids, who are already U.S. citizens. Worried about her status in the United States, she didn't want to have to return to Mexico and leave them. She has been married to a U.S. citizen for 12 years and it took nearly seven years for her to work through the system and become a citizen, her family said.
"There are more opportunities for them here," she said of her children ages 17, 14, 11 and 8.
*About one-third of the ceremony's audience came to support Pilar Montejo, from Bucaramanga, Colombia. Montejo took English language classes at Portland State University and was so beloved university staff found a job for her working with international students.
"She is such an phenomenal person, so we found a way for her to stay," said Julie Haun, director of the intensive English program.
Montejo is also married to a U.S. citizen. Amad Doratotaj, was born in Iran and went through his own naturalization ceremony in the 1970s. He met Montejo when he joined the Peace Corps as one of the first ever volunteers sent to Mexico in 2005.
Doratotaj, a former tech-industry executive, said he was recruited for a specific Peace Corps program that required an industry expert. Montejo was a consultant on the same project, he said. They married in 2009.
*Ricky Varma came from the Fiji Islands five years ago and works as a fab technician at Jireh Semiconductor in Hillsboro. He and his younger sister are new U.S. citizens. His older sister is a permanent resident but his mom, who attended the ceremony, is still on a visitor's visa.
"She's the only one left in Fiji," Varma said. They're trying to get her permanent status here.
Varma said it's great to be a U.S. citizen. "It was a relief when I got the letter," he said.
*Mahshid Osivandi was a high school English teacher in Iran before she retired. Now, she works at Macys. She is also married to a U.S. citizen. Osivandi met her current husband in Iran, but he has lived in Beaverton for nearly 35 years. They married in 2010.
Her son, Parse Ahmadnouri, 15, joined her about a year ago and became an instant U.S. citizen on Monday when his mom became one.
-- Wendy Owen