Citizenship: Ceremony ushers in new era for 60 area residents


– Photos by Tom Kirvan

By Tom Kirvan
Legal News

Once a baseball season, Comerica Park provides the setting for a ceremony that has nothing to do with the national pastime but is everything about a rich American tradition.

In fact, for some 60 men and women who took the field Wednesday, June 29 before the game between the Tigers and the Miami Marlins, the ceremony served as a fitting climax to journeys from various points around the globe, including war-torn Iraq, India, China, Great Britain, Mexico, Canada, and the Philippines. They gathered on a sun-soaked day at Comerica, where names like “Cabrera” and “Martinez” hold court, for the chance to begin a new odyssey — as United States citizens.

For all of the new immigrants to America, June 29 was a day to celebrate at a special session of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, as Judge David Lawson performed a naturalization ceremony in front of more than 30,000 Comerica Park fans.

“Many of us who are born in the United States tend to take the privilege of citizenship for granted,” Judge Lawson said in his opening remarks last Wednesday. “You are here today because you have a love for this country – so much so that you have traveled and studied and sacrificed to become an American, to enrich our land with your contributions of culture and tradition in the spirit of renewal.

“And I congratulate you for this,” said Lawson.

“But citizenship is not easy. It requires participation, tolerance, generosity, and devotion,” he added. “It requires sacrifice that only can be inspired by the beliefs we have in our shared values. Citizenship is not a spectator sport; it requires action. Otherwise, we will lose the gifts that our predecessors passed down to us through great and dear sacrifice.”

The federal jurist, whose Case Manager Susan Pinkowski opened and closed the special court session, has regularly presided over citizenship ceremonies each year since taking the bench in 2000, but the June 29 program was his first opportunity to conduct the proceedings at the home of the Tigers, whose everyday lineup is dominated by Latin-born players.

“Today all of you taking the oath of allegiance are becoming United States citizens, committed to our government, our system of laws and justice, and our democratic traditions and ideals,” Lawson told those lined up along the Tiger infield. “And so as citizens, you have both the privilege and the obligation to ensure that our leadership acts in the interest of all of us.

“And that means that you must take a hand in choosing our leaders, by voting in every election,” Lawson said. “Voting – by every American – is vital to the health of our democracy. For if you don’t vote, you will get the leaders you deserve.”

It was a message he underscored a few minutes later when presenting each individual with their citizenship certificate during a decidedly less formal ceremony held underneath the right field stands at Comerica, urging “each and everyone of you to register to vote as soon as possible” for the upcoming elections.

Yet, as he closed his remarks on the Comerica Park field, Lawson offered words of praise for those about to recite the oath of allegiance to the U.S.

“We are here on this beautiful afternoon, in this magnificent ballpark, a shrine to America’s national pastime,” Lawson said. “Baseball indeed is a revered American tradition. But in the next few minutes, there will be nothing more American than all of you.”