ROCHESTER – Prior to the last Oswego County Legislature meeting of 2017, Legislator Dan Farfaglia headed west.
He helped nearly three dozen men, women and children receive an early Christmas gift – U.S. citizenship.
“Last Thursday morning, before the afternoon legislature meeting in Oswego, I was in Rochester participating in a swearing in ceremony for new Americans,” he told Oswego County Today. “My own great-grandparents went through their ceremonies in the last century in Oswego, in 1938 and 1943.”
This event was hosted by Monroe County Clerk Adam Bello and Supreme Court Justice Richard Dollinger. It took place in the Monroe County Legislature’s Chambers.
Farfaglia explained that he was able to be part of this because he has long had an interest in this subject and a few months ago, offered his services to the Onondaga and Monroe County officials that oversee these ceremonies.
Monroe County took him up on his offer.
“From what I understand, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services decide where these naturalization ceremonies take place. Federal District Courts administer them along with certain State Supreme Courts with assistance from their county clerks,” he said.
Typically, in Upstate New York, they occur at locations near where the Federal Courts are situated, such as Onondaga County, Albany, Monroe, Broome, Erie, etc. Both entities share the responsibility and Citizenship and Immigration Services spreads the naturalization candidates between the ceremonies.
As far as who gets sworn in, it is basically those who have completed the process, passed all of their tests, paid fees, etc., he added.
Farfaglia congratulated the new citizens on achieving their goal, discussed his family’s ties to immigration and passed on warm holiday wishes to the new Americans.
“It was really special to have been part of this and this is definitely a time when the job is fun,” he said. “I also had the pleasure of congratulating all of the new Americans after they received their official papers. I was very honored to be one of the firsts to refer to them as American citizens.”
“The fact that you are here in this room, taking these bold steps, illustrates that you are taking courageous chances in your own lives, to join our American family. Some of you may be more recent arrivals. Some of you may have been here for a while,” he told the crowd in his remarks. “But today, you are making it official. I am sure that your families, friends, as well as everyone in this room, are as proud of you as I am.”
Among the nations the participants originally called home are: Argentina, Bhutan, Bosnia-Herzegov, Canada, China, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Honduras, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Russia, Slovakia, Somalia, Sudan, United Kingdom and Venezuela.
“As many of you are already aware, just like yourselves, nearly everyone in the United States either arrived from someplace else in the world or had ancestors that made the trip before them,” the legislator said. “The fact that America is made up of citizens from many different places is what has always made this nation unique. I truly believe that this country draws its strength through its diversity and is becoming stronger every day – because of people like yourselves.”
Whether they already have children or will someday, what they were doing was laying the groundwork for their children, grandchildren and even more generations ahead, for the success in their lives as well as their own, he said, adding that “I am one such example; because of the paths that were paved by my immigrant great-Grandparents.”
“My great-grandparents, Isodore and Antonia Farfaglia, a century ago immigrated to this great nation from the Italian island of Sicily. Back in those days, the processing of new Americans on the East Coast was mainly done through Ellis Island, near the State of Liberty in New York City,” he said. “I sometimes think about them and wonder how happy they would be if they knew that one of their descendants went on to become an elected official in this country.”
He brought their naturalization papers with him.
“So, the paperwork that you are receiving as part of your swearing in ceremony, please hang onto them so that future generations can view them and be fully aware of when their own family officially became part of this country,” he told the new Americans. “Trust me when I say that they will be grateful.”
He cited some naturalized Americans that went on to great things.
One such example is another immigrant from Italy, Frank Capra Sr. He came to the United States as a child and as grown up became one of the most respected filmmakers of the 20th Century. He also served in the United States Army during World War II.
“One of his most famous movies, you might have heard about it, is It’s A Wonderful Life, which is shown on television every holiday season. I actually saw this movie in the theater with my son last weekend,” he said.
Other examples, he said, include NY Governor Andrew Cuomo and his father, Mario, who also served as Governor of New York; Nikki Haley, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations; two U.S. Senators (Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz) whose parents arrived here more recently; and Arnold Schwarzenegger, a very successful actor who served as Governor of California a decade ago.
“He (Schwarzenegger) went through the same process, back in 1983, that all of you are going through here today,” the legislator pointed out. “So, as illustrated, in this nation, the possibilities for you and your families are endless in the private and public sectors. That is what has always made America special. This country and the State of New York in particular, have long been considered ‘The Land of Opportunity.’”
One of the biggest privileges they gained is the right to vote.
“If you are over 18, I strongly encourage that you register to vote as soon as possible so you can immediately start participating in our democracy,” he said. “My grandfather, Carmelo Farfaglia, a first-generation American who was born here, took me out to vote the first year I was eligible. To me, it felt like a rite of passage and I’m sure that many of you will feel the same way when you get your chance.”