When Pakistani immigrant Atif Mahmood hit the job market, he set his sights high and went straight to the Federal Bureau of Investigations. But there was one thing he didnt have U.S. citizenship. So the FBI told him to come back when he did. The citizenship process took two years but on September 11, Mahmood was among 21 people taking the oath at a the National Citizenship Day ceremony at Market Square in Alexandria.
Mahmood, an Alexandria resident, can now enjoy the freedom of everything, he said.
Ming Lau raised her right hand and took the oath along with Mahmood, and is also looking for a career move to the federal government. Her citizenship means a lot, she said. You get more job opportunities.
There were lots of flag waving and smiles as Gregory Christian, the director of District 7 at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, gave the Oath of Allegiance to the new residents from 16 countries, making them new U.S. citizens. I will support and defend the constitution of laws, the oath went. Christian urged those already in the country to go through the process if theyre eligible, he said.
A city welcome
Mayor William Euille also welcomed the new citizens. We embrace you today as our newest citizens, he said.
On stage with Euille were City Council members Del Pepper, Ludwig P. Gaines, Rob Krupicka, Timothy Lovain, Paul Smedberg and Justin Wilson. School Board member Yvonne Folkerts was in the audience as well. Vice Mayor Pepper read a proclamation from the mayor, making it official.
Mary and Jake Hill, brother and sister from Waynewood Elementary School in the Mount Vernon area, read the Pledge of Allegiance as the new citizens recited the pledge for the first time.
Alexandria is a city that respects our diversity, Euille said.
Old town resident Ebenezer Sam was in the audience watching his friend Diana, pledge her citizenship. He got his citizenship years ago, and it really opened up my horizons, Sam said. More than they can even imagine, he added. It makes you feel more involved.
The ceremony is a tradition for the City of Alexandria, on the second Tuesday in September.
It is a coincidence it fell on September 11, said city official Joan Maldonado, the division chief of Multicultural Affairs and Community Outreach.