Entries in Citizenship (3)


Pakistani Woman Burned in Acid Attack Becomes US Citizen

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- Julie Aftab's joy masks the scars that cover the right side of her face.

When she was 16, she was attacked in Pakistan by a man who was offended by the silver cross she wore around her neck.  He threw acid on her face, and poured it down her throat.

Her injuries were so severe it would take 31 surgeries over 10 years for her to recover once a family in Houston took her into their home.

On Tuesday, Aftab received a precious gift -- a piece of paper declaring her a United States citizen.

"This means so much," she said.  "For many people this is just a piece of paper, but this paper means I now have opportunity, it means I am free."

When Aftab arrived in Texas nearly eight years ago she spoke no English.  Lee Ervin remembers the quiet girl who came to his home.

"She was so quiet and shy she didn't speak any English, and she barely would look at us," he said.

His wife Gloria said, "We taught her English using a kindergarten book with pictures."

Aftab's English is now good enough that she is majoring in accounting at the University of Houston -- and she was the keynote speaker at the naturalization ceremony for herself and 2,000 other new citizens.

She wrote a speech, practiced it over and over, then decided to leave it at home.

"I want to speak from the heart, to thank the people and the country that gave me a home and a future," she said.  "I will cry, I know I will cry.  This has been an eight-and-a-half-year journey, and now so much is possible.  I can serve on a jury now."

She was near tears as she described her life in Pakistan.

"All my life I wanted to be accepted.  In my house I was not accepted, in my society I was less than others," she said.

The Ervins, who accepted Aftab in the U.S., had smiles to light up the room as they watched her take the oath of allegiance, then bravely walk to the front of the large crowd to tell them what the moment meant to her.

Aftab took a deep breath and looked at the crowd.

"For me taking the oath is not just words, being a citizen is not just a responsibility, it means this country is truly the land of opportunity.  I can now live a free life," she said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Madeleine Albright Welcomes New Citizens, Says US Needs Vitality They Bring

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, herself a naturalized citizen, welcomed 12 new citizens to the United States and donated memorabilia from her diplomatic career Thursday to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

During the ceremony, Albright recounted a comment by her youngest granddaughter, showing how far the country has come since her tenure as America’s first female secretary of state under President Bill Clinton.  When her granddaughter turned seven two years ago, Albright recalled, “She said, ‘So what’s the big deal about Grandma Maddy being secretary of state? Only girls are secretary of state.’”

Albright described her own experience of coming to America on the SS America as it “steamed around the Statue of Liberty into New York harbor.”

Born in 1937 in Czechoslovakia, Albright emigrated to the U.S. in 1948 after her home country fell to communism.  She became a U.S. citizen during college.

“Our country cannot stand still; we need the vitality and renewal that comes with fresh energy and ideas. And that’s where you all come in,” Albright told the new U.S. citizens. “If you are anything like me, today is a milestone that you will look back on with pride for the rest of your lives.”

“When you return home tonight, do what I did, and put your citizenship document in the safest and most secure place you can find,” she said. “It is the most important piece of paper you will ever get because it represents not just a change in legal status but a license to a dream.”

Each year the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) welcomes 680,000 citizens in naturalization ceremonies that take place both in and outside the U.S.  The metropolitan New York area accounted for more than 14 percent of new residents, followed by the Los Angeles and Miami areas.

For U.S. Army Major Oludmenga Obasanjo who was born in Nigeria, the ceremony was an “emotional experience.”

“I’ve given and I’m ready to give everything to the United States,” Obasanjo said. “For me to be a total part of the United States this is it, it starts today. Now, it’s total. It’s complete.”

Obasanjo, who is a physician, came to the U.S. six years before 9/11 to complete a masters in public health. After 9/11 he wanted to join the military to serve a country of which he was not yet a citizen.

“Joining the military was just a chance to be a part of a problem that was worldwide, where America was a leader [in] the effort against terrorism,” Obasanjo said. “It was a chance to be part of it at a higher level.”

Next week President Obama will award Albright with the highest honor bestowed upon a civilian -- the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Facebook IPO: Eduardo Saverin Defends Citizenship Move

Jim Spellman/WireImage(NEW YORK) -- Eduardo Saverin, a co-founder of Facebook and soon-to-be IPO multi-billionaire, defended relinquishing his U.S. citizenship, which led lawmakers to announce the Ex-Patriot Act Thursday morning, saying he “will pay hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes” to the U.S.

“My decision to expatriate was based solely on my interest in working and living in Singapore, where I have been since 2009,” Saverin, 30, said in a statement released to ABC News. “I am obligated to and will pay hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes to the United States government. I have paid and will continue to pay any taxes due on everything I earned while a U.S. citizen.”

Saverin, who helped Mark Zuckerberg develop the social network as Harvard students, is expected to save millions of dollars by not paying capital gains taxes on his shares of Facebook, which is expected to have the largest technology IPO ever on Friday.

His stake in the company is estimated to be worth over $3 billion of Facebook once the company goes public on Friday.

Last week, reports revealed Saverin filed in September 2011 to give up his citizenship which became official in September, before Facebook announced its plans in February this year.

“It is unfortunate that my personal choice has led to a public debate, based not on the facts, but entirely on speculation and misinformation,” he said in the statement.

Saverin paid a standard “exit” tax, which included approximately 15 percent of the pre-IPO value of his shares. Saverin is likely saving millions of dollars because he will not pay capital gains taxes while he lives in Singapore.

“As a native of Brazil who immigrated to the United States, I am very grateful to the U.S. for everything it has given me,” Saverin said. “In 2004, I invested my life’s savings into a start-up company that initially was run out of a college dorm room. Since then the company has expanded dramatically, has created thousands of jobs in the United States and elsewhere, and spawned countless new companies across the United States and other countries.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., have called Saverin’s move an “outrage.” Their proposed legislation calls for re-imposing a 30-percent tax on capital gains on expatriates like Saverin who take up residence in a foreign country.

Last year 1,700 people renounced their U.S. citizenship.

“I will continue to invest in U.S. businesses and start-ups, and believe and hope that those investments will create many new jobs in the U.S. and globally,” Saverin said. “I also hope that these investments will create opportunities for many other individuals to start companies and benefit society.”

Ben Mezrich, author of The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, defended Saverin. Mezrich, who interviewed Saverin for his book which was adapted into the film The Social Network, said saving money was likely a factor for his repatriation, but not the entire reason.

“To be fair, Eduardo wasn’t born in the U.S. and has really lived internationally for most of his life,” Mezrich said. “He will save some money on taxes, and especially on estate taxes down the line, so I’m sure that’s a factor, but he probably made the decision because he sees himself as an international businessman.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio