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Naturalization ceremony hosted at MATC

After+the+ceremony+newly+naturelized+citizens+register+to+vote+with+help+from+The+League+of+Women+Voters.
After the ceremony newly naturelized citizens register to vote with help from The League of Women Voters.

After the ceremony newly naturelized citizens register to vote with help from The League of Women Voters.

Photo by Keith Schubert

Photo by Keith Schubert

After the ceremony newly naturelized citizens register to vote with help from The League of Women Voters.

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Words of relief were spoken by Bonafice Osunkwo and Maria Gonzalez, who both became official United States citizens at the naturalization ceremony hosted by MATC on March 9.   

Originally from Nigeria, Osunkwo came to the United States in 2005 and now works as an IT consultant. “I can now do my business anywhere I want without fear,” he explained, adding, “America is full of dreams and ideas and this naturalization certificate is my tool of empowerment to chase my dreams.”

Moving to the U.S. from Colombia 12 years ago, Gonzalez now works in Milwaukee full time as a registered nurse.  After a long and tedious process, she described the feeling of finally becoming a citizen as “safety for me and my family.”

Osunkwo and Gonzalez were just two of the 92 immigrants representing more than 60 countries from all continents excluding Antarctica that took part in the naturalization ceremony held on MATC’s downtown Milwaukee campus in the historic Cooley Auditorium. 

The Milwaukee U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) field office and the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin facilitated this event, which MATC has hosted twice a year since 2013.

MATC President Dr. Vicki J. Martin said in regards to MATC hosting the ceremonies, “MATC is honored to host U.S. naturalization ceremonies that hold such a special meaning for community members,” and added, “We are grateful for our partnership with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Milwaukee Field Office that has brought the ceremonies to our downtown campus.”

School of Technology and Applied Sciences Associate Dean Russell Spahn kicked off the ceremony with the national anthem. 

Valencia Brown, an associate dean of the School of Pre-College Education, followed the anthem with a welcome message to all students, families and immigrants in attendance and introduced MATC Provost Dr. Mohammad Dakwar. 

Dakwar gave an uplifting and hopeful speech to the soon-to-be citizens, telling them that “immigrants are an integral part of this country.” He recalled past immigrants and said without their dream of coming to America, we wouldn’t be the country we are today. He relayed the dreams 

of previous immigrants into the message that becoming citizens will help “turn your dreams into visions and visions into reality.”

Not dismissing the problems facing our country and community, Dakwar noted some of the challenges facing Milwaukee. He mentioned things like poverty and high incarceration rates and urged the soon-to-be citizens to be a “positive driving force in our community.”

After Dakwar completed his speech, he welcomed U.S. Magistrate Judge David Jones, Eastern District of Wisconsin, Milwaukee Division, to the stage for the swearing-in process. 

Jones said, “There is no more special duty for me than to officiate citizenship ceremonies.” He likened it to officiating marriage ceremonies but joked “while half of the marriages end in divorce, citizenship lasts forever.”

Photo by Keith Schubert
Bonafice Osunkwo beams about receiving citizenship certificate, which he views as the final piece of the puzzle to fully pursue dreams.

After conducting the Oath of Allegiance to the U.S., the judge referred to the new citizens as “my brothers and sisters.” He reminded them not to forget their country of origin because “a culture that can produce a person as remarkable as you, is a culture to treasure.”

Jones wrapped up his part by telling the immigrants they inspire him and that “our country needs you desperately.”

Kay Leopold, USCIS Milwaukee director, then concluded the ceremony by leading all attendees in the Pledge of Allegiance.

The League of Women Voters was on hand to help register the new citizens to vote after the ceremony. Jones called them “my dear friends and the most important people here.” He told the audience that “American citizenship requires us to be informed of the great issues of our day and to be sure to exercise our right to vote.”

Gonzalez heeded the judge’s advice. “I love this country and really want to be a part of it,” she said, “so the first thing I am going to do is register to vote.”

Of the 92 immigrants naturalized, three of them are MATC students: downtown Milwaukee campus student Cheuk Ying Yeung, originally from China; and Mequon campus students, Cuong Nguyen and My Nguyen who are father and daughter and originally from Vietnam.

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Naturalization ceremony hosted at MATC