Redmond's Sebastian, 12 others take oath to become U.S. citizens

Redmond’s Arvin Sebastian recites the oath to become a United States citizen on Monday at the Redmond Regional Library. - Samantha Pak, Redmond Reporter
Redmond’s Arvin Sebastian recites the oath to become a United States citizen on Monday at the Redmond Regional Library.
— image credit: Samantha Pak, Redmond Reporter

On Monday, 13 individuals earned the right to call themselves Americans during a naturalization ceremony at the Redmond Regional Library.

Representing nine countries, the new U.S. citizens came from as far as Romania, Taiwan and Indonesia to just north of the border in Canada. And from the Philippines was Arvin Sebastian, a Redmond resident who works as an engineer at AT&T.

Sebastian came to the United States in 2003 to work. He started out in Boston. There, he met his wife Irma Sebastian, who also came to the country from the Philippines in 2004. After they married, the couple moved around the country before they came to Redmond.

When he first came to the United States, Arvin said the main thing he had to adjust to was the weather in Boston, which was very different from the Philippines’ tropical climate.

“Their winter is never ending,” he said about the New England town.

Culturally, Arvin said things weren’t too difficult as they watched American TV shows in the Philippines and he was able to familiarize himself that way.

“It was like moving to another province for us,” he said about coming to the states.

Although he grew up in the Philippines, Arvin said the United States has been like a second home for him, Irma and their two sons. He said they do feel like they are a part of the country but now that he is a citizen, it is official. Irma will be eligible for citizenship in two years.

Like Arvin, for Dinis Couto and Cynthia Couto, becoming U.S. citizens has just made official what the Kirkland couple has felt since coming to the states. Cynthia, who came from Brazil, said life in the states has been like second nature for them.

“We were happy living here. People were nice to us,” she said about life before earning their citizenship. “I feel part of this country already.”

Dinis, who came from Portugal, agreed, saying their experience in this country — which started in Florida before they moved to the Pacific Northwest — has been filled with friendly, welcoming people.

A number of people spoke at Monday’s naturalization ceremony, including Holly Koelling, director of public services for the King County Library System (KCLS).

She said libraries are a primary institution for their communities and provide various, nonjudgmental services for people, regardless of their background. Some of those services include classes in which people can learn the skills, language and ways of living to help them adjust to life in the United States. The library also offers services to help people become U.S. citizens, “if they choose so,” Koelling said.

Linh Tran, a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officer, added that libraries have also had a long history of being a place of self-education for immigrants.

City of Redmond Mayor John Marchione also spoke at Monday’s ceremony. During his speech, he shared his families’ stories of coming to the United States from Italy and Newfoundland. Marchione said his family was able to incorporate American culture with their cultural heritage and encouraged the new U.S. citizens to do the same.

“I wish you the best of luck and welcome you to the community,” Marchione said to them.

While becoming a citizen has been a happy occasion for Arvin, it is also bittersweet. He said for him and Irma, one of the difficulties of living in the United States has been being apart from their families in the Philippines. He added living in different time zones also makes it difficult to call home whenever they want, as well.

In the future, Arvin and Irma hope more of their family will be able to move to the United States so they can be together.

“We’d like to have our kids grow up with cousins and grandparents,” Arvin said.

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