They came with family.
They came with friends.
They came in shirts and ties, colorful cultural garb, and Muslim burkas.
Thirty-eight people from 25 different countries.
Some held hands.
All, eventually, raised hands and voices and pledged allegiance to their new nation.
The naturalization ceremony at the federal courthouse in Harrisburg took less than an hour, but for Alvaro Kaempfer of Chile it was a 20-year process.
Alvaro was chosen to speak for the group and he gave a notes-free, heartfelt address.
It concluded, “From the moment we were growing up in different places in the world, to this moment when we choose to be part of a community that we can call finally, and legally, call our home, thank you.” Alvaro received a rousing applause from his fellow citizens.
Congressman Lou Barletta (R-PA) then addressed the newly minted Americans.
“Millions have come before you and millions will come after you, but today is your day,” Barletta said, reading from prepared remarks.
Barletta is an interesting choice to speak to immigrants. We first caught up with him in 2006 when he was mayor of Hazleton making national headlines for his attempt to crack down on illegal immigrants by closing businesses that hired them and fining landlords that rented to them.
Now in Congress, Barletta is still passionate about the issue and is a strong advocate for securing the U.S. borders and rooting out the illegals among us.
“We’re throwing around a pathway to citizenship like a cheap suit like it means nothing,” Barletta said. “Then you see the people here today who waited years and years and how proud they are to have gone through the legal process to become American citizens.”
Barletta calls American borders dangerously porous. He says millions of illegals are a security risk and an economic danger because they take jobs from legal US citizens. He calls it a major problem that’s going unfixed.
“You wouldn’t replace carpet in your house if you still had a gaping hole in your roof, so why don’t we fix the roof, why don’t we secure our borders first?” he said.
Alvaro is an associate professor of Spanish at Gettysburg College. He knows there are millions in America illegally and is sympathetic to their plight. This newly minted citizen would like to see illegals have the same piece of paper he now clutches.
“I don’t judge them at all,” he said. “I would like to see that problem solved.”
But immigration is no longer a problem for 38 people, from 25 countries, who now unite under one flag.