Standing with Ontario Area Chamber of Commerce CEO John Breidenbach, Safa Ilmi holds up her certificate of recognition for her work to attain U.S. citizenship. She and other new citizens living in Malheur County were honored in a ceremony at the start of the America’s Global Village festival Saturday, June 4, in Ontario. (The Enterprise/SCOTTA CALLISTER)
ONTARIO – A region that traces its roots to an array of cultures welcomed some of its newest U.S. citizens from foreign lands on Saturday, June 4, with certificates, applause, American flags and red, white and blue frosted cupcakes.
The event came at the kickoff for America’s Global Village festival, held in Lions Park.
The Four Rivers Welcome Center invited more than a dozen immigrant and refugee residents who have attained citizenship in the past couple of years to attend the event and take the stage.
Renee Cummings, director of the Welcome Center, said the ceremony idea came up two years ago. New citizens who live in Oregon must go to Portland for the official naturalization ceremony, she said, but many of those who work so hard to attain citizenship can’t afford to bring along their family members to share the milestone.
“So we decided a few years ago to hold a ceremony here for them,” Cummings said.
After the first one, plans to make it an annual celebration were derailed by the pandemic.
This year, the festivities could return, and the Welcome Center reached out to citizens who have come here from countries including Somalia, Iraq, Mexico and other Spanish-speaking nations.
John Breidenbach, head of the Ontario Area Chamber of Commerce, said it seemed a fitting way to open the Global Village event, which celebrates “all of the cultures that make up the western Treasure Valley.”
The Welcome Center provides a range of help to newcomers – offering connections with resources, job information, language skills and more. Cummings said the center works under contract with the Department of Human Services, but a grant from the Sisters-based Roundhouse Foundation has been instrumental in its ability to help refugees and immigrants find success in the community.
All of the new citizens who were able to attend share the stage and receive a warm round of applause at the culmination of a presentation Saturday, June 4, in Ontario. (The Enterprise/SCOTTA CALLISTER)
Abdikadir Osmon waits for the ceremony to begin with his children Aiman, almost 4, and Aahil, 5, in Lions Park. Cupcakes and flags decked the table in preparation. He was among those honored in a ceremony at the start of the America’s Global Village festival Saturday, June 4, in Ontario. (The Enterprise/SCOTTA CALLISTER)
Silvia Figueroa (left) beams from the stage after receiving her certificate. She and other new citizens living in Malheur County were honored in a ceremony at the start of the America’s Global Village festival Saturday, June 4, in Ontario. (The Enterprise/SCOTTA CALLISTER)
Maryam Ali shakes hands with former Mayor and community volunteer Ron Verini as she accepts a certificate of recognition for attaining U.S. citizenship. (The Enterprise/SCOTTA CALLISTER)
Angelica Corona, wearing traditional garb of Mexico, accepts her certificate at the June 4 ceremony in Ontario honoring new U.S. citizens. (The Enterprise/SCOTTA CALLISTER)
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