SYRACUSE (WSYR-TV) - 61 immigrants sat together at Bishop Grimes High School on Wednesday, reciting a promise to support and defend the constitution and laws of the United States of America.
Jhonatan Sanchez had waited 16 years to deliver his oath of allegiance.
"There is a constant fear when you are through that process. You want to make sure you are an example, that you do everything right," he says. "I guess becoming a citizen, takes that worry away from your family."
A former migrant worker from the Dominican Republic, he met and married a Ukranian refugee. Together they have a daughter, born in England. Now, the family has established a home together in the world's melting pot.
Sanchez's path to citizenship ended in a school gymnasium, surrounded by students learning about their new neighbors.
With renovations underway at the courthouse where naturalization ceremonies are normally held in Syracuse, U.S. Magistrate Judge Hon. Therese Wiley Dancks asked her alma mater to open its doors to immigrants for the day.
School officials agreed and the idea grew into a "Diversity Day" of studies that would end in the gym as students witnessed the final steps of citizenship for immigrants.
"People come from all different backgrounds and come together to make the same pledge...is a truly beautiful thing," says Bishop Grimes Student Council President Zachary Jones.
Classmates learned the value of a single sheet of paper-- a certificate that grants Sanchez the right to vote, be a juror and work freely to support his family.
He hopes the students are inspired to keep learning.
"There are a lot of people trying to belong, trying to find their home here," Sanchez says. "Try to learn what they went through, why this is so important to them, why this is home. I think that is the only thing I can hope for."
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