She beamed throughout Friday's ceremony at the William Paca House & Garden in
"I have been waiting for this day," Mongu said. "Why can we not give this chance to everybody? It's a great country. It's a country of opportunity. I really support that everyone have the same chance I had."
Mongu was one of 37 immigrants who became citizens at the ninth annual
The event, and others like it across the country Friday, came amid rising concern over a surge in illegal immigration and the long stalemate in
"The basic idea of welcoming immigrants to our shores is central to our way of life," President
But Obama has come under fire from both sides. Republicans point to the more than 52,000 unaccompanied children who have been apprehended on the southwestern U.S. border with
Advocates for immigrants, meanwhile, fault Obama as the "deporter in chief" who has sent back hundreds of thousands who crossed the border illegally.
Obama has acknowledged that his efforts to win congressional approval for a bipartisan, comprehensive overhaul of the nation's immigration laws have failed. He says he will now try to impose change through executive orders.
"We shouldn't be making it harder for the best and the brightest to come here, and create jobs here, and grow our economy here," he said Friday. "We should be making it easier. And that's why I'm going to keep doing ... everything I can do to keep making our immigration system smarter and more efficient."
Historic Annapolis President
The candidates for citizenship came from 29 countries. Requirements for eligibility include five years in the country as a lawful permanent resident, an attachment to the principles of the Constitution, good moral character, knowledge of U.S. history and government, and proficiency in English.
Mongu said she was looking forward to "participating in democracy" -- not only voting, she said, but possibly joining a political party and volunteering in campaigns.
"If you want to come in, you have to come in legally, not illegally," Opeolu said. "When you come in legally, you have opportunities to become anything you want to become."
But when people have entered the country illegally and built lives here over a period of years, the Olorunsolas said, the government shouldn't just send them back.
"When we came in, we knew we were coming to stay," Mulikat said. "So we had to sell everything; we gave away everything we had.
"If you send someone back after that, you're making them start over from scratch. That's what's happening to most of these people. They can't go back. They just want to survive."
She said she favored creating a status that would allow people who have entered the country illegally to live and work here legally. Otherwise, she said, some will turn to crime.
"I know what it is to be here," she said. "We came here with green cards, and we're still struggling. It's harder for someone who has no papers to show."
Her friend earned good grades in high school, Jalloh said, but without legal status, is working and has had difficulty advancing to college.
"She's super-smart, but she's not able to go to school," said Jalloh, 19. "She didn't have a choice. She was brought here by her parents. I think if someone has been in America for that long, they should have some kind of right to go to school. They should have the right to finish their education."
"It's always better to do it legally," said Ali-Napo, who was a year old when her parents brought her to
(c)2014 The Baltimore Sun
Visit The Baltimore Sun at www.baltimoresun.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services