For the third time this school year, the School of Law played host to a naturalization ceremony. The ceremony held on May 20, however, had special significance, as many of the new citizens were victims of violence during the 1995 Srebrenica massacre and other genocide events in Bosnia. A total of 17 immigrants from Bosnia were naturalized at the event in the William H. Kniep Courtroom.
Places for People, a local nonprofit organization, played a key role in helping the new citizens make it through the naturalization process. After their terrifying experiences in Bosnia, many of the immigrants were afraid to enter U.S. government buildings, and the armed security in those buildings made them very nervous and afraid. As a result, they could not complete the required citizenship interviews at the federal courthouse downtown. Places for People stepped in and lent space for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officers to come perform the interviews in a more low-key environment. Find out more information on this Places for People project on their website.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Terry I Adelman (’70), a SLU LAW adjunct professor, presided over the ceremony, and alumna and St. Louis Associate City Counselor Maribeth McMahon (’87) sang “God Bless America,” “America the Beautiful,” and the national anthem after also performing at SLU LAW’s April naturalization ceremony. Safeta Ovcina, a humanitarian and Bosnian immigrant to St. Louis, served as the guest speaker.
SLU LAW Legal Clinics Director John Ammann also spoke at the ceremony, and says hosting three ceremonies in a year is unusual at the law school.
“We had a big one a while ago at Chaifetz (Arena) where about 1,000 people became citizens,” he said. “We’re trying to make this a regular event.”
Ammann said Dean Michael Wolff has set a goal of hosting more naturalization ceremonies, and another one will be held in August for 250 new citizens.
“Immigration has a backlog, with a lot of people who want to become citizens and not enough ceremonies,” Ammann said. “We’re happy to help as much as we can.”