147 take US citizenship oath in north Mississippi

Published 12:03 am Sunday, December 7, 2008

People from around the globe raised their hands and took the oath as U.S. citizens, and many said they’re looking forward to one of their new rights and responsibilities — voting.

“America is a place where dreams can come true — and they do,” U.S. Rep. Travis Childers, D-Miss., told 147 new citizens during a naturalization ceremony Thursday on the campus of Mississippi University for Women in Columbus.

The new Americans came from 55 countries, including China, England, South Africa, Russia, Mexico and Israel.

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In early September, nearly 200 people became U.S. citizens in a ceremony on the University of Mississippi campus in Oxford.

The Census Bureau estimated in 2006 that just 1.8 percent of Mississippi residents were born in other countries.

U.S. District Judge Michael Mills called the ceremony “one of the most important events” in the new citizens’ lives. Some shed tears and others laughed joyously as they attached American flag pins to their lapels.

Among the new citizens are a wife who met her American-born husband in Mexico, a college professor who arrived nearly a decade ago on a swimming scholarship and a man who just wanted to experience American life.

Louisa Woods, 36, grew up in Mexico and was in her native country when she met the man she eventually married. He had grown up in the north Mississippi town of Ackerman.

Woods said she’s looking forward to voting in the next election.

“That’s what I’m really excited about,” she said.

A swimming scholarship at Delta State University brought Cetin Oguz to Mississippi in 1999 from his native Istanbul, Turkey.

He said the naturalization process has given him a chance to “learn more about the U.S. government and history and all the things that built this nation,” he said.

Oguz graduated in 2001 and married his wife, Carmen, that year. They now have two sons, ages 5 and 3. He’s now an art professor at DSU.

“You get used to the environment and adapt to the culture,” Oguz said.

Roy Baryosef came to the United States from Israel about 12 years ago because he wanted to experience America. Now 32, he’s living in north Mississippi with his wife and two children.

“I’m happy here,” he said. “It’s exciting that I’ll be able to vote.”