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Citizenship is held dear at swearing-in ceremony

318 from 62 countries are now Americans

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SOUTH JORDAN — Of the 318 immigrants from 62 countries who were sworn in as U.S. citizens Thursday, it was a native of Pakistan who was invited to address the crowd.

"I love this country," said Mohammed Zeb. "Whoever did that," he said of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, "they are our enemies. I am Muslim and I love our country."

Zeb's remarks were met with applause from the crowd of new citizens and friends and relatives attending the naturalization ceremony.

A group of Marines had also gathered to see one of their own sworn in as a citizen.

"We're here to support him. We're very proud," said Master Gunnery Sgt. Roger Moore.

Many agreed that the naturalization ceremony had a markedly different feel after the Sept. 11 attacks.

"We feel more patriotic," said Faa Apelu, who was born in Samoa.

"I've been affected by this," he said. Apelu said the attacks have given him more strength and a greater desire to be American.

Jasmail Brar, who was born and raised in India, said he feels the loss from the attacks, but he also feels anger.

"Why I left India was to escape the kind of thing we're seeing here," he said.

Brar said he is glad to be American now. He said before, he felt he couldn't really express his opinion about what was going on in the country because people saw him as an outsider.

"Now, you can ask why, you can take part," he said.

The ceremony took place at the Salt Lake County Events Center in South Jordan.

U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball, who oversaw the ceremony and swore in the new citizens, told the group he was happy they chose to become legal citizens. "Some of our most valuable contributions, I believe, come from our most recent citizens," he said.

He also spent a moment reflecting on the recent terrorist attacks.

He told the new citizens that American patriotism stems from a belief in the self-evident principles that define the United States.

He told them that now, more than ever, patriotism is an important quality to have.

"In the midst of these difficulties," he said, "how appropriate that we welcome new citizens."

E-MAIL: rrogers@desnews.com