Matthias Biswa, 6, held the handles of two American flags in his hand, grinning as he spun around and waved the banners wildly in the hallway of the Lancaster County Courthouse.
The flags had just been handed to his parents — a pair of brand-new American citizens.
Bhakta Biswa and his wife, Bishnu Biswa, were among 69 people from 32 countries who took the oath of citizenship at the courthouse Friday morning. It was the second of four naturalization ceremonies scheduled here this year.
The group recited the Pledge of Allegiance, received flags and their naturalization certificates, and officially became U.S. citizens.
Bhakta Biswa said he and his wife came to America eight years ago from Bhutan “for freedom, to be able to have a life, to learn something, technically.” They want to be a success in America, added Biswa, who works for Lancaster County Motors.
“We’re proud and excited,” Bishnu Biswa said.
‘Making us stronger’
“I’m a big fan of diversity,” Lancaster County Commissioner Craig Lehman told the new citizens, “because diversity makes all of us stronger. So, as you become part of our family today, I am so grateful for it. ... You are making us stronger today.”
“This has been a long journey for you,” Judge James P. Cullen, who administered the oath, told the group. “You have had to adjust to a new language, a new culture, and perhaps a new political system.
“We are extremely pleased that you have chosen to join us,” Cullen added. “You have an opportunity, now, as a citizen of the United States, to take full part in our political life. ... Please register and vote.”
Freedom, opportunity, education
While family members and friends of the new citizens filled half the courthouse seats during Friday’s ceremony, Nina Thanh Truong came by herself to take the oath.
“I’m very excited,” Truong said.
“My grandparents brought my ... whole family here in 2006” from Vietnam, Truong said.
She said she has learned English from her customers at Creative Nail Studio in Manheim, where she works.
Dar Ni Aye La, originally from Myanmar (formerly Burma), came to the United States seven years ago from Thailand.
“We lived in a refugee camp for 20 years” in Thailand, La said, because of political unrest in his native country.
His wife, Eh Ku Thaw, also became a citizen Friday.
Rachel Bofuasini Bunkete came to Lancaster as a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo five years ago, with the help of Church World Service.
“I wanted to be here,” Bunkete said. “There’s freedom, it’s safe, there’s opportunity. My kids could get a good education.”
“There was war (in Congo),” Bunkete, who is a machine operator for Anvil International in Columbia, said. “They were killing, raping the women, right up to now.”
She has two children here; an adult son is still in Africa, but she hopes he will be able to join her eventually.
“It’s wonderful,” Juan De Jesus Moronta Rosado said after taking the oath.
He came from the Dominican Republic 20 years ago, having studied English in his native country, to join his mother in New York. He’s been in Lancaster for five years.
“Everything has been great for me here,” he said.