From immigrant to citizen: An American success story

Richland student Edward Sesay is a Gambia native who came to the United States with his mother when he was 9. That was in December 2006. On Oct. 11, he became a U.S. citizen.

Sesay and his mother received permanent residency thanks to Edward’s father, who had already settled in the U.S. Years later, Edward’s father left the family and was not able to help them pursue their citizenship.

They didn’t give up. Edward’s mother took “all the load on herself,” said Sesay. He said his mother “fought for herself first” because in the U.S. there are several ways to obtain citizenship: through a parent who is a U.S. citizen, upon birth or after birth but before the age of 18. Edward was 17.

The path to citizenship can be a long process for various reasons, including missing or incorrect papers. Sesay’s mother, Marie, became a citizen in August 2015 and Sesay had already turned 18. Edward started college at Richland and had a job. As a result, his own application didn’t go as quickly as he had hoped.

Marie Sesay and her son Edward Sesay.

Marie Sesay and her son Edward Sesay.

Approximately three years later, he got the phone call inviting him for a confirmation interview. That was on Sept. 25.

“I went and first they made me go through all the application and everything I wrote. Then they asked me six questions about history and government,” Sesay said.

During the Naturalization Oath Ceremony at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, the room was divided.

Family members and friends were seated on the exterior parts of the room.

The soon-to-be citizens were in the center.

An official with the Immigration Service listed all 36 countries that were represented.

To an observer, it may have felt like the United States was adopting children from Cameroon, China, Columbia – all over the world.

When the country of Mexico was called, 20 people stood up. When Gambia was called, Sesay was the only person to stand.

A glance at his mom revealed a proud mother who was moved by the ceremony.

Her eyes seemed to relive their journey leading to this day.

“I am very happy because it’s been a long journey. We thank God [the] mission has been accomplished,” she said. “He is proud to be a citizen of the United States.”

As the countries were called, there were cries, smiles and serious expressions from the people in the audience.

For the most part, it was an atmosphere of relief to the extent that one of the new citizens in the first row started to dance after the ceremony.

Sesay is the vice president of the Student Government Association at Richland. He notes that he can “run for office in the future.”

“Now I can register to vote, maybe not for this election but for the 2020 presidential election. I can do my jury duty. I can travel easier out of the country,” Sesay said.

Immigration is an integral part of Texas history. Richland is the most diverse of the DCCCD colleges.

The student body of almost 20,000 includes international students from 130 countries with 79 languages represented on campus.