AMERICAN DREAMS: From diverse backgrounds, people come home to Mississippi

By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – For some, America starts out as a dream before it becomes a home.
Last week at the United States Courthouse in Oxford, 47 people born in wide-ranging places like Guinea, Wales, Philippines, India and beyond took the Oath of Allegiance to become citizens of the United States of America.
This country was a place of refuge for 32-year-old Abraham Diallo. He was born in Guinea, where his father served the old regime as an army officer.
“When the turmoil started, they started persecuting anyone who was tied to the old government,” Diallo said. “He was killed.”
Diallo was granted political asylum in the U.S. in 2002, and set about building a life in a country where people of different political parties can co-exist.
He lives in Horn Lake with his wife and two children. Diallo works full time and studies computer science at the University of Memphis.
“This is a good day for me,” he said with a smile, moments before becoming an American citizen. “It is a milestone. It’s an important point in my life.”
For the kids
Marium Rivera, 35, started out life in Wales, and now calls Walls home.
She lived in Germany when she met a young serviceman from Nashville.
“We fell in love and moved to America,” she said.
Her sister and mother had already moved to Walls, so it was a natural destination after her husband died.
She didn’t sleep well before the naturalization ceremony. Rivera said part of that was due to excitement, but there were other emotions, too.
“I love Europe. Europe is my home, but I have two American kids, so this is my home,” she said. “My daughter has a bit of an English accent, but my son is a Southern boy all the way.”
Culture change
Grace Glenn, 41, of Marietta, was born and raised in the Philippines. Her husband was a truck driver when they met in 2006. They married in 2007 and came to the United States.
She was reminded of the excitement of that first plane trip to her new home when she was preparing to take the oath.
“It’s a big change in culture, but before I came, I had some books and movies about the U.S.,” she said.
Glenn improved on that knowledge to pass a test on U.S. history and civics that was part of the naturalization process.
The television provided another source for cultural information.
“I watched ‘Little House on the Prairie,’” she said. “It helped me understand some of the past.”
Freedom
Harshad Patel, 39, was part of a mass exodus from India in the 1990s.
“My whole family is here,” said Patel, a married father of two who lives in Grenada.
Patel said he and his family found far fewer business restrictions in the U.S. than in their native country.
“There’s more freedom here in every way,” he said.
Unlike Diallo, Rivera and Glenn, Patel reported having a pleasant night of sleep before swearing allegiance to his new home.
“Just to be a U.S. citizen, I’m so happy,” he said. “This is what I wanted for a long time.”
scott.morris@journalinc.com