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46 Become U.S. Citizens on July 4

July 4, 2001

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ARLINGTON, VA (AP) _ With red, white and blue balloons waving in the breeze, 46 people from 25 countries became America’s newest citizens Wednesday, pledging to ``bear true faith and allegiance″ to the United States.

``You are here because of your commitment to rise to the highest levels of achievement _ that of becoming an American citizen,″ said Warren Lewis, Washington director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. ``You have proven that you can fulfill your dreams.″

Smail Farid, who raised his right hand above his head while taking the oath, said the ceremony was the end of a six-year journey by which he came to fully understand the American way of life.

``I have my heritage and my language ... but I really feel I’m part of this country,″ said Farid, who came to the United States from Algeria in October 1995.

His friend, Jawed Bedjaoui, described American citizenship as ``the cherry over the sundae.″

``People who were born here, they cannot feel it because they’ve got it,″ said Bedjaoui, who is not yet a citizen. ``We fight for it.″

Maribel Landaverde, 33, a special education teacher in Virginia,came to the United States from El Salvador when she was 6 years old.

``Oh it’s, it’s like you can’t explain,″ said Landaverde after the ceremony. ``Especially Fourth of July. Now I have the right to vote. Now I’m a citizen. Now I’m me.″

About 150 friends and family members snapped photos and cheered on the new Americans as they took the oath of allegiance during a ceremony in Freedom Park on this overcast Fourth of July morning. Some sang along and others stood with their hands over their hearts during the national anthem, and later they recited the Pledge of Allegiance.

``You are making a commitment to embrace the principles of our democratic society,″ Lewis told the group, encouraging them to vote and participate in their communities. ``You’re voice is just as important as everyone else’s.″

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