Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Courtroom Visit Changes Citizens' Lives

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Courtroom Visit Changes Citizens' Lives

Article excerpt

Byline: Terry Dickson, Times-Union staff writer

At 3 p.m. Wednesday, Johanna Ludlow was an African. A few minutes later, she became an American.

She was among 49 people from 26 countries who raised their right hands in front of Senior U.S. District Judge Anthony Alaimo and took the oath of allegiance.

Many had first and last names from different languages, giving the impression that they came here through marriage to a native American. There was Hyon Suk Fullbright, Nneka Arama Allen, Lai Yin Woods and Fiorella Maria Hopkins.

Federal courtrooms are stodgy places except on those increasingly rare days of naturalization ceremonies. It was a noisy place Wednesday as mothers tried to quiet restive children with juice boxes and Fritos.

"This is pretty much typical," said Dwight Faulkner, an assistant district director for the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

It was Faulkner's job to get all the new citizens on one side of the courtroom and their friends and families on the other. That left a few mothers on one side of the room and their husbands on the other trying to persuade toddlers to observe courtroom decorum. A few family members took the oath together, including a pair of Lams and a pair of Trans.

The crowded courtroom represented only a drop in the melting pot. America welcomed 800,000 new citizens in 2002 and set a record in 2001 with 1.4 million, Faulkner said.

"Citizenship is good business," he said.

It allows people to vote, to hold public office and to travel more freely. To become citizens, they must be able to read, write and understand English, must be of good moral character and must pass a test in American history.

Some become citizens so they can sponsor family members to come to America.

Most were from the Savannah area and drove about an hour to the ceremony. …

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