With over 10 different countries in attendance, Oct. 2 will be remembered as a significant moment in the lives of these 38 new U.S. citizens. This monumental ceremony took place at the amphitheater in the Great Falls National Historic Park in Paterson, New Jersey.
Montclair State University Professor Thomas Franklin organized a trip to the Great Falls for his students. “I was looking for an event we could go photograph that would be visual and would be kinda fun, and when I started to do my research I wanted to go to the Great Falls,” Franklin said. “Then I discovered that they were [having] this naturalization ceremony.”
Students taking photojournalism courses at Montclair State had the opportunity to attend and capture amazing shots of the emotional experience.
Najiyah Weaver, a sophomore journalism major, was one of the 18 students in attendance. She later shared why she was grateful to be a part of this event.
“After the ceremony was over I was taking pictures of families in front of the Great Falls. I was talking to one lady [who] had two sons and she was saying how she did it for them,” Weaver said. “You could see her face turn red and eyes start to water. It was just a good experience.”
Friends and families gathered in support of their loved ones during the ceremony. Also in attendance was Darren Boch, the superintendent of the Great Falls Park, Bill Pascrell, Congressman of the United States and Andre Sayegh, the Mayor of Paterson.
“I’m the grandson of immigrants and my grandparents worked here in Paterson,” Boch said. “For me personally to be able to host this event and watch these people become Americans here at the Falls and in this city is a very personal, moving moment. That’s why I always make a point every October to do this here.”
The new citizens had beautiful weather for the ceremony, along with a waterfall cascading in the background and the Alexander Hamilton statue overlooking the event. Many of these new citizens have attained their citizenship for themselves and for their families to have access to opportunities they may lack in their home countries.
Eilyn Consuegra Leon, a participant of the naturalization ceremony, is originally from Colombia. She cited her children as her motivation.
“This was a five year process but this was the best process for my kids,” Leon said. “So my kids [can] have better opportunities.”
Congressman Pascrell had a lot to say to the new citizens in his closing remarks.
“Don’t think you got here because of anyone. We were all born equally,” Pascrell said. “You will protect America; you will protect our country.”
Mayor Sayegh was in attendance and respects the drive that immigrants have for taking part in this long intensive process. He is a son of Arabic immigrants; his mother came from Syria and his father came from Lebanon.
“[I’m] thankful that people still want to come to America and to Paterson,” Sayegh said.