March 23, 2006

Law school to host naturalization ceremony

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Federal Judge J. Phil Gilbert will preside over the naturalization of new U.S. citizens on Friday, March 31, at Southern Illinois University Carbondale's law school.

Julian Pei, co-founder and vice president of Realty Central, Inc. in Carbondale, is the guest speaker for the ceremonies, which start at 11 a.m. in the law school auditorium. The public is welcome.


Media Advisory

Reporters and photographers are welcome to cover the event. Organizers ask that reporters and crews refrain from conducting interviews and stand-ups during the ceremony, which lasts about one hour. For more information, please contact Assistant Professor Cindy Buys at 618/453-8743.


Gilbert has performed more than 30 naturalization ceremonies since becoming a federal judge in October 1992.

"This is one of the most pleasurable events that I do as a judge," Gilbert said. "It's the only time that everyone walks out of a court proceeding happy. It's an honor and privilege for me to naturalize new citizens to this country."

He noted that many people who become naturalized are long-time contributors to the United States in terms of work, education and service before being sworn in as the country's newest citizens.

"When people make that choice to become a U.S. citizen it means something to them," he said. "They bring different cultures to this country and have decided to become Americans. They contribute a lot to this country."

Pei became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1992. A native of Suzhou, China, he immigrated to the United States from Hong Kong in 1957. He returned to Hong Kong the next year, but came back to the United States and attended SIUC for four years beginning in 1965.

Pei will speak about his family's connection to the United States, which dates to the early years of the 20th century, when his father's older brothers attended college in this country. He will also talk about "the debt I feel my family owes to the opportunities this country affords its immigrants."

This is the third year the law school is hosting a naturalization ceremony. Ceremonies occur on a monthly basis in the Southern District of Illinois.

Assistant Professor Cindy Buys accompanied an SIUC law school student from the United Kingdom to her naturalization ceremony three years ago. Buys, who specializes in immigration law, explored with Gilbert the idea of holding another ceremony at SIUC after finding the event so moving.

"Almost every year we have had someone who is connected with SIUC – a former student, a faculty member, who participates," Buys said. "I think it's neat that they get to have their families and colleagues here on campus when they go through the naturalization ceremony."

Serving others and participating in community outreach programs are among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.