Over one hundred immigrants granted citizenship at Augustana College


New citizens receive their naturalization certificates and shake hands with the court officials at the naturalization ceremony in Augustana College on October 18, 2019.

Carly Davis

On Friday, Oct. 18, 163 immigrants living in the Quad Cities became U.S. Citizens during a ceremony held in Centennial Hall at Augustana College.

The ceremony began with an Opening of Court from Shig Yasunaga, Rock Island’s U.S. District Court Clerk of Court, which was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and President Bahls’s welcome address. An Oath of Allegiance and pledge made up the actual naturalization ceremony.

Chief U.S. District Judge Sarah Darrow gave congratulatory remarks followed by remarks from Command Sergeant Major Brian D. Hefferman of the Rock Island Arsenal, who was “happy to be involved” in naturalization ceremonies “every three months” as they typically occur in the area.

Augustana Associate Professor of Political Science, Xiaowen Zhang shared, at the event, her own story to the people being naturalized and the families that had come to support them. Zhang immigrated from China and gained citizenship into the United States.

Having first immigrated as a student 18 years prior to her naturalization, Zhang chose to give up her Chinese citizenship in favor of becoming an American citizen. In Zhang’s eighteen years in America before naturalization, she “had already developed a strong sense” of her national identity as a Chinese woman. “The moment I chose to become an American automatically ended Chinese citizenship,” Zhang said.

While naturalization usually occurs in a federal courthouse, Rock Island’s U.S. District Court had been closed for renovation. The U.S. District Court in Davenport would not have been able to accommodate the full group attending the ceremony on Oct. 19, according to the Daughters of the American Revolution, who commonly host receptions for larger naturalization ceremonies. Augustana hosted the ceremony in Centennial Hall for efficiency and to celebrate immigration in regards to Augustana’s history and founding.

“This college was founded by immigrants  – and very recent immigrants at that,” President Bahls said. “Our president had only been in America a decade when he founded Augustana, and most of our first class had not been here anywhere near that long.”

Augustana’s Swedish heritage aside, the immigrants participating in Friday’s ceremony came from tens of countries around the world. They were supported by the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution as well as Augustana Faculty.

“We want to help celebrate their new lives as American citizens,” Susan McPeters of the Mary Little Deere-Ft. Armstrong Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution said.

“To become a citizen of the United States is to step boldly forward  – remembering always where we came from, but firm in our resolution to make a new home here, and to make it a better home for all,” President Bahls said.