Detroit – Manuel Roque’s citizen journey began 20 years ago, when he came to the United States as a beneficiary of deferred action for the arrival of children.
Originally from Mexico, Roque said he encountered many obstacles over the years as an immigrant.
By Wednesday night, those issues were gone with a naturalization ceremony, greetings to his new home from the Second Gentleman of the United States, and a basketball game.
“It’s a great honor,” said Roque, 25. Along with 16 other people, he took his oath of allegiance in a Detroit Pistons opener and was greeted as a new citizen by Doug Emhoff, vice president Kamala Harris’ husband.
“It means to me that the American dream still lives on in this nation,” he said. just before taking the oath.
The naturalization ceremony took place at Little Caesars Arena at halftime between the Detroit team and the San Antonio Spurs. The event was held to commemorate Hispanic Heritage Month.
The crowd of basketball fans erupted in cheers as the new citizens fulfilled their Oath of Allegiance and then their Oath of Allegiance, administered by U.S. District Chief Justice Denise Page Hood and Mick Dedvukaj, Director of the Detroit District of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, respectively.
Members of the group, in addition to Mexico, came from Algeria, Australia, Canada, Bangladesh, France, Lebanon, Mali, Philippines, Vietnam and Yemen.
“You speak different languages, you practice different faiths… You now share with us this indestructible bond; you are citizens of the United States, ”Emhoff said. ” It’s incredible.
“I say to my fellow Americans, welcome. Congratulations. You did it!”
Judge David Lawson, who delivered the opening speech at the ceremony, encouraged the newly naturalized group to vote and exercise other civic rights and duties.
“Citizenship is not a spectator sport… it requires action,” he said.
Aurelio Mendez, who also became a citizen on Wednesday night, said his new status meant he would take that advice and vote in federal elections.
“It’s very special to me because a lot of Hispanics go through these processes, or they are afraid of (them)… It will be good to inspire them to essentially follow my steps.
The ceremony was a first for the Pistons, team officials said.
“The Pistons strive to be a community asset to the city of Detroit and it has been an honor for our organization to host such an important event,” said Arn Tellem, vice president.
Emhoff told a story about his immigrant great-grandparents and their dreams for their family. “If only they could see me now!”
He also spoke of Harris’ immigrant parents, who, like the New Citizens, were people “looking for acceptance … looking for opportunity.” ”
“This is not the end of your journey. Guess what? “Said Emhoff.” This is just the beginning. ”
“Tomorrow, I look forward to working alongside you to form a more perfect union,” he continued.
Before the game, Emhoff chatted with 16 sophomores at Amelia Earhart Elementary and Middle School in southwest Detroit. The students, along with their families, were invited by the Pistons as part of the organization’s youth engagement efforts, and chosen as a reward for high attendance during the school year.
“He’s your manager. Do you know how hard she works? I do, ”Emhoff said of Melissa Villarreal, who was accompanying the students.
“My wife is Kamala Harris, and she is the first female vice president in the history of our country,” he said to the applause and cheers of the students and their families, and noted that he was the first Second Gentlemen.
“And I’d better not be the last.”
Emhoff also told the students that his favorite basketball player was “the late, great Kobe Bryant,” followed by Michigan native Magic Johnson.