By Carol Kozma
NEW BEDFORD — Cassio Raggi, a 26-year-old Brazil native who lives in Easton, might have become a citizen Friday but he says he has felt American for far longer.
“I’ve been here for close to 10 years and it has become my home,” he said after the naturalization ceremony, where he and 29 others became citizens on Friday.
It was the second time that the ceremony has taken place at the Immigrants’ Assistance Center, in the same room where many future citizens have taken English or citizenship classes. That would not have been possible without Denis Riordan of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, according to Helena DaSilva Hughes, executive director of the center.
Before 9/11, Da Silva Hughes said many steps to citizenship were completed at the center, including fingerprinting the new citizens.
“To bring it back to the Immigrants’ Assistance Center and to have the oath in that room … There’s no words,” Hughes said after the ceremony.
Before the proceedings, a group of friends and family were sitting with the soon-to-be citizens, fanning themselves with the programs or small American flags on the second floor of the center.
The new citizens came from 11 different countries spanning several continents: Brazil, Cabo Verde, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, India, Lebanon, Pakistan, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Sweden and Thailand.
After standing to read the oath of allegiance, their right hands raised, and a loud round of applause congratulating the group, everyone — including local officials — sat down to listen to remarks.
“I sincerely hope that each of you finds in this nation a fulfillment of your dreams,” said Superior Court Judge Richard Moses who presided and told the new citizens America rewards “hard work, and honesty and dedication.”
Moses also urged those gathered to vote and to not forget their heritage.
Mayor Jon Mitchell recalled his immigrant roots. The United States self-selects for ” go-getters” made up of the group of people who have the guts to leave their country behind for opportunities, he said.
“You will all make us a stronger community in New Bedford,” he said.
After the ceremony, Hugo Gabriel DeJesus of Portugal who has lived for 7 years in the United States and learned English at the center with the help of his wife, Melissa Gonsalves, said he was happy.
“It gives me a lot of opportunity,” said the New Bedford resident who now works construction.
This article originally appeared on SouthCoastToday on July 31st 2015, see it here