A 102-year-old man stood from his wheelchair Wednesday for the Pledge of Allegiance and the Star Spangled Banner. The man held his hand over his heart and donned a small American flag, just one week before the nation celebrates its independence. The image was part of a naturalization ceremony on the West Coast, according to a report carried by WFLX-TV in West Palm Beach.
The man had come to the United States from the Philippines in 1928. He worked the fields as a teenager, picking lettuce and vegetables. Now after more than 80 years in the United States, he is a citizen. Of his new citizenship, the man says that he is happy-his family says there are no words to express the feeling.
An office director with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says that, “”It’s extremely rare to see anyone over 100” become a U.S. citizen under the country’s immigration laws. USCIS says that only 27 centenarians have become citizens in the last 50 years-the oldest to take the oath was 127-years-old when she became a U.S. citizen in 1997.
The man did not spend all of his life in the United States after his first arrival in the 1920s. He returned to the Philippines after working U.S. farmland for about a decade. While in the Philippines, he married, but later returned to the U.S. before the first of his six children were born. In the United States, he earned money and bought farm fields to support his family.
In 1984, he brought his wife and two of his adult children to the U.S. They all became U.S. citizens. His wife later passed away in 2007. The man’s daughter-in-law regrets that the man’s wife did not get to share in the family’s joy as the 102-year-old man gained U.S. citizenship in the naturalization ceremony last week.
Source: WFLX-TV, “102-year-old Calif. man becomes US citizen,” Associated Press, June 28, 2012