Forty-one people from 22 nations lifted their right hands in the air Friday at the old Cumberland County Courthouse. They recited the oath, pledged allegiance to America and promised to reject all foreign leaders and potentates.
“So help me God,” they concluded in unison in accents from around the globe.
Manet Jade Craddock Mann, 19, was born in New Zealand and mostly raised in the Midstate but is now officially, for the first time, an American. She spoke for her freshly minted countrymen and women.
“It’s super exciting,” Manet said. “It’s been a long time in the making.”
Senator Jim Ferlo (D-Pittsburgh) wants to encourage more scenes like that by creating an Office of New Americans.
His proposal was sent to fellow lawmakers this week seeking support. The ONA would be controlled by the governor, cost $200,000 a year and have four employees focused on “attracting, retaining and integrating immigrants into Pennsylvania society.”
“There’s really everything to gain from legal citizenship,” Ferlo said Friday. “And when have we ever closed our door to legal immigrants who aspire to improve themselves, their families and the communities in which they live?”
Mann, who can now legally vote, gives Ferlo’s concept a thumbs up. “I think it’s a good idea. It can be hard when you don’t speak the language or don’t know the customs. I think it would be good to have someone help guide you.”
“I am a hundred-percent for lawful immigration,” said Representative Steve Bloom (R-Cumberland) who attended Friday’s ceremony.
Bloom may like new Americans but he doesn’t like new state offices.
“The last thing we need to do in Pennsylvania is create another bureaucracy and governmental agency to fight a problem that is not a state problem to begin with, it’s a federal problem,” Bloom said.
But Ferlo insists that different people from different lands enrich the state far more than the minimal cost of embracing them.
“My goal is not to add to the problems of the state budget but like the old saying, ‘you gotta spend money to make money.’ We’re helping them transition and become part of the vibrant economy that we hope to build here in our state.”