Nearly 100 Central New Yorkers crowded into the Empire Room at the state fairgrounds Friday to take the oath of allegiance to become citizens of the United States. They originate from 40 countries...from Bangladesh and Iran to New Zealand and Vietnam. 19-year-old Michael Malinowski of Syracuse came to the U.S.from Poland when he was 12. He says he’ll always have a place in his heart for his homeland, but is proud to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather who was with him Friday.
Chol-Awan Majok spent his first 21 years as a refugee before coming to Syracuse nine years ago.
Jorge Montalvo is Director of the New York State Office for New Americans who helped coordinate the ceremony with the Department of Agriculture and Markets and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. He says most people typically associate immigrants and New York City. Montalvo says the density is still there, but there's a pattern where they arrive at the port and then head upstate, or skip the port altogether.
"Our upstate cities are seeing an uptick in the number of immigrants. It's really stabilized in many ways the economy and the population because you have a lot of people who've been leaving. So you have these newcomers coming in and revitalizing some of our neighborhoods. Just as you have Armory Square coming up, you have other parts of the city coming up because we have newcomers, and they're starting businesses."
For years now, Syracuse's North Side has been a laboratory of sorts for refugees and immigrants who've settled there and opened businesses.