38 new citizens take Oath of Allegiance at UND
Ceremony coincides with Constitution Day
GRAND FORKS — On the 235th anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution, 38 newly minted citizens on Friday swore their allegiance to the foundational document.
The ceremony, held at UND’s Gorecki Alumni Center, was presided over by Judge Peter Welte, chief judge of the U.S. District Court of North Dakota and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The latter agency is tasked with processing citizenship applications.
UND President Andrew Armacost stressed the significance of the ceremony coinciding with Constitution Day, also known as Citizenship Day.
“When we talk about rights and freedoms and the role of the Constitution, I don’t think there’s any better way to celebrate Constitution Day than having it on a college campus,” Armacost said.
In an address to the new citizens, Armacost drew parallels from his military career.
“I served on active duty in the Air Force for 30 years, and have given similar oaths to military officers, called the oath of office, probably over 400 times,” said Armacost. “When I hear the words ‘that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States,' my mind goes in many directions. It’s not about the sheet of paper. It’s about pledging your allegiance to the ideals that are in that document.”
Welte, who administered the oath, impressed upon the new citizens the power they have in bettering the nation’s future. He opined that while perceived trust in democratic institutions may be low, embracing the attendant rights and responsibilities of U.S. citizenship is a positive step forward.
“You’re here today because you believe in truth, you believe in opportunity and you believe in justice. You believe in the promises set forth in the preamble of our Constitution,” Welte said. “So go forth, new citizens, and be the difference-maker in your community. Lead us all back to the foundations of our country, the basics, where truth and liberty are valued above all else.”
The new citizens represent 11 countries of origin: Bhutan, Cameroon, Canada, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Mexico, Moldova, Nepal, the Philippines, Somalia and Vietnam. They reside throughout North Dakota, and took many different paths on their journey to America.
Albert Rwiyereka fled his home in Congo in 2008 due to conflict, landing in Kenya. He came to the U.S. in 2016, arriving in North Carolina. His wife, Yvonne Nyamahirwe, also of Congo, arrived in Albany, New York, during the same year.
The couple met in New York, moved to Bismarck and were wed in 2019. They are now the proud parents of two American-born children. Rwiyereka works for Enable, a Bismarck-based nonprofit assisting those with disabilities. Nyamahirwe recently graduated with an associate's degree from Bismarck State College.
When asked what the most personally rewarding aspect of becoming a U.S. citizen is, Rywiyereka responded: “The opportunities and ability to serve my country.”
Deborah Cannon, a public affairs specialist with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, wants to inform prospective applicants about resources available to them concerning the process.
“USCIS has a video, Apply for Citizenship Online , on the USCIS YouTube page,” Cannon explained. “This video provides in-depth instructions on how to file Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, online.”
In addition, the USCIS publishes a pamphlet titled “10 Steps to Naturalization.” This comprehensive guide apprises applicants of their eligibility, and if eligible, directs them toward the requisite documents and appointments.