133 become U.S. citizens at Wheaton College
U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam said Friday that secure borders are the first step toward any meaningful discussions about immigration reform.
The Wheaton Republican said such a move would finally allow some real progress.
"The public has the expectation that the federal government will meet its first duty, which is to keep the country safe and that means secure borders," he said. "Only then can you have a thoughtful conversation about how to move forward (with immigration reform)."
The Wheaton Republican made the remarks following a naturalization ceremony at Wheaton College that saw 133 people from 38 countries become U.S. citizens. Roskam handed the recipients certificates showing their citizenship.
He said they stood as an example for others and showed the path to citizenship can be done the right way, a way that should be preserved in immigration reform talks.
"You don't want to diminish and tarnish that and say their work was for nothing," he said. "(The ceremony) shows that it can be done. It's a lot of work but it's a great privilege to be an American."
During the ceremony, Roskam told the audience at Barrows Auditorium that the U.S. Constitution gives citizens rights that have come down from "divine providence."
"We look at you and say, 'There is something unique about you, something special about you,'" he said. "Not because the federal government says so. It's because you have been endowed by your creator with these rights. It's inalienable. It can never be taken away."
The words resonated with Solomon Baddoo, 36, of Ghana. The Elgin resident and new U.S. citizen said he looked forward to having the responsibility and "privilege" of citizenship.
He said the process took five years, during which he had to apply for a temporary green card and then a permanent one, but it was well worth it.
"It's an amazing opportunity to be able to start a new thing," he said. "The future, it's looking bright."
The ceremony included video remarks from President Barack Obama and a short speech by Roskam.
"It's a great testament to the U.S. that this is a country where people can come in and assimilate," Roskam said. "We are unique in that sense. This is a group that reflects that."
U.S. District Court Judge John Darrah administered the oath and a list of the countries represented at the ceremony was read. The most highly represented countries were Mexico with 42 new citizens and India, with 21.
Johanna Mironov emigrated to the U.S. as a high school student from Russia. Now 29 years old, the Arlington Heights resident said becoming a U.S. citizen was a matter of doing the right thing and adopting a country she said adopted her.
"I came in high school and I never felt unwelcome," she said. "It's OK to be different here."