- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 3, 2004

Standing well above 6 feet and wearing a U.S. flag necktie with his gray suit, Elkanah Faux was hard to miss among 50 immigrants sworn in as U.S. citizens yesterday in Arlington.

Not only was Mr. Faux, a Sierra Leone native, the most sharply dressed man in the crowd of people from 28 countries, he was “the most handsome,” said his wife, Hannah, who watched the ceremony with the couple’s two children,

“And she is the most beautiful,” Mr. Faux repaid the compliment to his wife.

Feelings of joy touched all of those who officially declared their allegiance to the United States yesterday during the special Independence Day Weekend naturalization ceremony, fittingly held at Freedom Park, a terrace outside the now-closed Newseum in Rosslyn.

The sense of pride was palpable among the immigrants at the moment when a full U.S. military color guard appeared and the new citizens were asked to rise for the singing of the national anthem. Moments later, they raised their right hands to recite the oath of citizenship, and the immigrants became Americans.

“I’m very excited. I feel more secure to be a citizen,” said Celia Ponce, who immigrated from Mexico City 16 years ago and now lives in Arlington with her husband and daughter. “I’m going to be able to vote, and I can have the rights of a citizen.”

Mrs. Ponce, 39, was especially touched to become an American on the day before the Fourth of July and plans to celebrate “an old American tradition” with her family. “We’re going to eat hot dogs and hamburgers to celebrate my citizenship, too,” she said.

Other new Americans also had special plans for the national holiday. “Now it’s a double celebration … a celebration of my citizenship and Independence Day,” said Jose F. Jaldin, who lives in Arlington and works as a supervisor at a painting company. “I’m really happy,” said Mr. Jaldin, who came to the United States 15 years ago from Bolivia.

In addition to Bolivia, Mexico, and Sierra Leone, the newly tapped citizens yesterday also hailed from Afghanistan, Angola, Bangladesh, Canada, China, Columbia, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Honduras, India, Ireland, Liberia, Malaysia, Morocco, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, the Philippines, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam and Yugoslavia.

Hundreds of thousands of immigrants become U.S. citizens each year — about 600,000 in 2002, according the Department of Homeland Security — but not all are naturalized under such special circumstances.

The naturalization ceremony yesterday was at the Newseum for the seventh consecutive year. Though the indoor exhibitions are closed while a new Newseum is under construction on Pennsylvania Avenue in the District, the adjacent Freedom Park remains open.

There may not be a better backdrop for becoming a citizen than the park, adjacent to the mall level of 1101 Wilson Blvd. It features a glass memorial to journalists, as well as a host of international icons of freedom. Among other features are the largest exhibit of original segments of the Berlin Wall outside of Germany, a casting of the jail-cell door from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 imprisonment in Birmingham, Ala., and a replica of the Freedom statue atop the U.S. Capitol.

The crowd mingling in the park yesterday was marked by ethnic diversity, as well as a wide range of backgrounds and professions.

Mr. Faux arrived in the United States in 1987 after he earned a doctorate in economics in Paris, where he met his wife, Hannah. Here in the United States, they started a family. The couple’s two children, Chloe, 15, and Ainsley, 13, watched with excitement as their dad received his certificate of citizenship.

Reflecting after the ceremony, Mr. Faux said he fell in love with the United States before he moved here. “I wanted to come to look for greener pastures, as it were,” he said, adding that he has benefited from the “principles of liberty and freedom here.”

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