ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Tuesday night’s Red Wings game looked a little different than most. The first pitch was thrown by Billy Simba, a new American citizen originally from the Congo. The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Muneeb Dahab, a new citizen from Sudan.

That’s because Dahab, Billy, and 48 other people were sworn in as American citizens before the start of the game, in Rochester’s first federal court naturalization ceremony in over two years.

Hailing from 27 different countries, the new American citizens were sworn in with the help of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, as well as the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York.

“It is one of my great honors as a federal judge to have the opportunity to swear in new American citizens, and it was extraordinary to be able to do so during this special evening at one of America’s greatest pastimes,” Elizabeth Wolford, Chief U.S. District Judge for the Western District of New York, said. “A naturalization ceremony provides me the opportunity to meet these new citizens in person, to administer the
oath, and to witness their pride as they undertake this life-changing step.

The ceremony took place before the game at around 6:40 p.m.

After the ceremony, all 50 new citizens were given free tickets to the game against the Omaha Storm Chasers, with many family members attending to celebrate the occasion as well.

The process to become an American citizen can take years, and requires a prospective citizen legally reside in the U.S. for at least five years before they can begin the application process.

The application can take between 18 and 24 months, involving a significant amount of paperwork, eligibility screening, English and civics testing, fingerprinting, and a final interview, according to a representative from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York.

The naturalization process occurs after the application process has been completed.

“The United States is not, and never has been, a country of one culture, one color, or one creed,” Wolford said. “This country’s true strength lies in the diversity, ideas, and talents of each of its citizens.”

To top off the high spirits of the evening, the Red Wings won the game, with a score of 5-2.