Children of immigrants get certificates of U.S. citizenship in Old Sacramento ceremony

07/04/2012 12:00 AM

07/04/2012 12:12 AM

Fourteen children were presented with citizenship certificates Tuesday at a special ceremony held in the Schoolhouse Museum in Old Sacramento.

The recipients were technically already citizens, deriving citizenship from their parents, who became naturalized citizens before the children turned 18. The certificates are meant to provide the youngsters with proof of their status as U.S. citizens.

The certificate "is like a passport," said Michael Biggs, director of the Sacramento field office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. "It's a fundamental identity document that they will carry for the rest of their lives."

Biggs led the children in the Naturalization Oath of Allegiance, having them repeat after him line by line.

The keynote speaker was Judie Fertig Panneton, local author of "Proud Americans: Growing Up as Children of Immigrants."

Panneton spoke to the children and their families about her own experience growing up as the daughter of Holocaust survivors. She encouraged them to embrace and honor their heritages. She ended by giving each child a copy of her book, which profiles 52 individuals who are the children of immigrants, including Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

"You're in good company as children of immigrants," Panneton told the children.

After the speech, the children received goodie bags donated by the Schoolhouse Museum as well as their certificates, which included a passport-style photograph next to identifying information such as name, date of birth, country of origin and alien registration number.

"Today's a very special day," said Olga Yashlavskiy, one of the children honored in the ceremony. "I am very excited, and I am proud of my parents."

The 10-year-old, whose parents immigrated to the United States from Ukraine seven years ago, volunteered to lead the Pledge of Allegiance during the ceremony.

"I'm happy for her," said Catherine Yashlavskiy, Olga's mother. "I know her future is fine because she's in this country."

The ceremony was one of 350 being held across the country and overseas this week to commemorate the nation's 236th Independence Day. The ceremonies recognize the legal status of more than 24,000 new citizens.

"Our purpose in being here today was to stand witness as we celebrated your citizenship," Biggs, director of the citizenship field office, told the children in his closing remarks. "And to celebrate the promise that you hold for the future."

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