Nation of immigrants

45 individuals hailing from 26 countries became U.S. citizens at Pennsbury Manor

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

Part of the melting pot: On Friday, July 27, on the grounds of Pennsbury Manor, 45 individuals hailing from more than 20 countries completed the journey to citizenship during a naturalization ceremony. Source: David Garrett Photography

Guy De Bruyn wasn’t even a teenager when he realized his life’s mission. He wanted to become a U.S. citizen.

A native of South Africa, De Bruyn said goodbye to the only home he knew at 12 years old to travel with his family to America, where his father was offered an advanced subcontracting position with Boeing. For De Bruyn, it was love at first sight as he stepped on U.S. soil for the first time. He was fascinated by it all, especially the freedom to travel between states without needing a permit. Though he moved back to South Africa some years later, he promised himself he’d be back.

Now, after nearly two decades, De Bruyn is not only a proud Northampton resident, he’s what his 12-year-old self dreamed of becoming someday — a U.S. citizen. On the morning of Friday, July 27, on the grounds of Pennsbury Manor, De Bruyn, along with 44 other individuals hailing from more than 20 countries, completed the journey to citizenship during a naturalization ceremony.

The American dream: After nearly two decades, South African native Guy De Bruyn is not only a proud Northampton resident, he’s a U.S. citizen. Source: David Garrett Photography

Officiated by Eastern District Judge of Pennsylvania Cynthia M. Rufe, the free ceremony was attended by nearly 150 loved ones, elected officials and community members interested in hearing the inspiring stories of the 45 nationals. According to Doug Miller, Pennsbury’s historic site administrator, more folding chairs had to be brought in to accommodate the unprecedented number of guests.

“Every year we do this event and it’s great,” he said. “Everyone in that group determined this is where they want to be.”

While some, like De Bruyn, came to the U.S. to expand their careers, others came for peace and safety — a stark contrast from the war zones raging in many of their home countries. Miller stressed that although someone can follow every U.S. law to a T and fill out all necessary paperwork, the road to official citizenship can often be a 10–15 year process. So when the day finally comes that they’re granted all the rights and freedoms of a U.S. citizen, it’s a big moment … especially when it takes place on the same grounds once walked by William Penn.

Commonly referred to as the “grandfather of the melting pot,” Penn was unique among his contemporaries for recruiting outside of England when he was building Pennsylvania. He wanted to unite as many cultures as possible in his new land.

“He cast a much broader net,” Miller explained.

The naturalization ceremony, which was first held at Pennsbury a decade ago, is particularly meaningful because it celebrates the diversity Penn once fought to bring to the state. When new citizens are sworn in, they accept certain rights that owe their origins to Penn’s work, including freedom of religion, the right of the common man to vote, and the right to a trial by jury.

In attendance at the ceremony was the League of Women Voters of Bucks County, who helped the new citizens register to vote, as well as Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick.

“As a second-generation Irish-American, I was proud to participate in the swearing in of 45 of our newest fellow Americans at the historic Pennsbury Manor,” he told The Times. “Representing a diverse group of cultures and bringing a wealth of experiences, these individuals will continue to collectively better our communities in Bucks and Montgomery County. I speak for all of us in sending them our heartiest congratulations, and stand with these new citizens in their love for this nation and our shared values of freedom, democracy and equality.”

Also present were participants of Pennsbury’s summer history camp, who enjoyed short Q&A sessions with both Judge Rufe and Congressman Fitzpatrick. Miller explained how Pennsbury works with the federal court each year to align the ceremony with the camp program. He understands that in today’s world, Americans have trepidations about certain countries and religions. Allowing the young campers to bear witness to the ceremony helps them see that not everyone from a particular place is bad. Many just want a better life for themselves and their loved ones.

This year’s new citizens hail from the following countries: Algeria, Bangladesh, Belarus, Cambodia, People’s Republic of China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Nicaragua, Peru, Russia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Vietnam.

For more information on Pennsbury Manor, 400 Memorial Road in Morrisville, and upcoming events, visit pennsburymanor.org. ••

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com