Thirteen men and women from 10 countries became U.S. citizens at a Friday afternoon naturalization ceremony in the Lebanon Municipal Building’s Courtroom No. 1.
As friends, relatives, and public officials looked on, the new Americans solemnly swore to support and defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States from all enemies, domestic and foreign.
The oath was administered by President Judge John C. Tylwalk, after each new citizen was presented for naturalization by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services representative Chris Baran.
While recognizing that “our country is not perfect,” Tylwalk told the audience that, “I believe that we should still be as aspirational as our founding fathers were. We should be trying to create a country and a society based on principles of equality and justice for all.”
He pointed out some of the practical, day-to-day benefits that American citizens enjoy but routinely take for granted: the right to vote, run for elective office, receive a public education, and travel freely.
And with the rights we Americans enjoy go a number of responsibilities, according to Tylwalk: military service if needed, jury duty, and taxes. “We have to pay taxes. A famous man once said ‘taxes are the price we pay for civilization.'”
Even more basic, every American has to follow the law. “We are a country of laws, and we expect obedience from our citizens,” Tylwalk said.
Friday’s ceremony marked the first time since 2020 that new citizens could be sworn in locally. Traditionally, Lebanon County residents participated in naturalization ceremonies held annually on May 1 as part of National Law Day. COVID-19 ended the practice, according to Tylwalk, and candidates were forced to travel out of the county, as far as Philadelphia, to participate in naturalization ceremonies.
“Unfortunately … COVID kind of put and end to Law Day … and the naturalization ceremony, Tylwalk noted. “But we discovered that not having a ceremony for naturalization in-county didn’t stop the need for one.”
Generally, applicants for U.S. citizenship must have been lawful permanent residents for five continuous years (spouses of U.S. citizens three years), demonstrate good moral character evidenced by a lack of a criminal history, and pass a test on United States history and civics.
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