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98 new U.S. citizens: ‘Welcome, welcome, welcome’
The scene at the return of Global Fest’s naturalization ceremony in West Lafayette. Plus, forums lined up for West Lafayette school board race.
Thanks this morning to sponsor Stuart & Branigin for support to help make this edition of the Based in Lafayette reporting project possible.
Posing in front of a map of the world, holding a U.S. flag given to her moments earlier by the Daughters of the American Revolution in one hand and a certificate that proclaimed her among the newest citizens of the United States in the other, Maria Reyes-Montiel stepped away to check the photo on her husband Jose’s camera.
The image? “Great,” Reyes-Montiel said, beaming in the sweeping lobby of the White Horse Christian Center in West Lafayette.
The feeling, milling Friday morning around 97 other freshly minted U.S. citizens in a naturalization ceremony big enough to require the former conference space now occupied by the church?
“Blessed,” Reyes-Montiel, who came to Indiana from Venezuela 15 years ago, said. “Very blessed.”
Friday’s event marked the return of an annual naturalization ceremony tied to West Lafayette’s Global Fest, which rolls out in full in the city’s downtown streets Saturday afternoon and evening. The large naturalization ceremony had been put off since the 2019 Global Fest, due to pandemic-related concerns.
Magistrate Judge John Martin, with the U.S. District Court’s Northern District of Indiana, presided over an oath of allegiance for 98 people from 27 countries, before the Purduettes, a singing group from Purdue Musical Organization, performed “America the Beautiful.”
As she called each forward to get their certificates, Susan Bales with the Office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services assured friends and family that it was fine to cheer their new citizens. For the most part, the staid audience tended toward quiet hugs and private moments in the back of the room as they scanned for the right backdrop for photos.
During the ceremony, West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis welcomed the 98 to the city and welcomed them to citizenship.
Dennis told them that the next step was getting engaged in their communities, being ready to be active participants and having the courage to speak up when they see things going wrong.
“People from all around the world made this country what it is today,” Dennis said. “What an amazing, amazing journey you’ve all been on. …
“Welcome, welcome, welcome.”
Martin encouraged the new citizens to share their stories.
For Reyes-Montiel, it started 15 years ago, when her career as a graphic designer dried up after opposing leadership in Venezuela. She came to Indiana and eventually married Jose Montiel, started raising a family and working as a photographer. The naturalization process could have happened earlier.
“But it’s here today,” Jose Montiel said.
“It’s home,” Maria Reyes-Montiel said.
Next up, she said: Registering to vote. That happened minutes later at a table set up in the White Horse lobby by the Greater Lafayette League of Women Voters.
By the end of the morning, the League had 21 new voter registrations filled out on hard-copy forms and more keyed into a laptop, directly into the state’s voter database.
“We do a lot of voter registration drives,” Ken Jones, voter services chair for the Greater Lafayette League of Women Voters. “This is the one event where they practically rip them out of your hand so they can fill them out. And we understand why.”
FOR MORE ON GLOBAL FEST …
The 27th annual Global Fest, a street fair designed to highlight the international population, will be 3-10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17, along Northwestern Avenue, Columbia Street and the new Chauncey Plaza in downtown West Lafayette. Global Fest – sponsored by the city, Purdue Convocations and the International Center of West Lafayette – features the International Center’s food bazaar – for the vendors, here’s a link – displays and entertainment.
Admission is free.
Here's the main stage schedule, organized by Purdue Convos:
5 p.m.: Tuvergen Band (high-energy Mongolian folk-fusion trio)
7 p.m.: Lone Piñon (traditional New Mexican string band)
9 p.m.: Gili Yalo (Ethiopian roots combined with funk, psychedelia and soul)
WEST SIDE SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATE FORUMS
Several candidate forums have cropped up in the past week for the West Lafayette school board race on the Nov. 8 ballot. Six candidates – Angie Janes, George Lyle IV, Dacia Mumford, Karen Springer, Laurence Wang and Rachel Witt – are running for three, at-large seats on the seven-member school board. (Springer and Witt are incumbents.)
Thursday, Sept. 22: David Sanders, a West Lafayette City Council member and Democratic candidate for Indiana Senate District 23, is organizing this school board candidate forum, announced Friday. When contacted Friday, candidates confirmed that they plan to attend the 45-minute forum of opening/closing statements, followed by time to answer individual questions from those who come to listen, at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 22, at West Lafayette City Hall, 222 N. Chauncey Ave.
Thursday, Oct. 6: This one is being organized by Brady Kalb, who was among 15 candidates running for four West Lafayette school board seats in 2020. In this one, candidates each will get five minutes to make a statement, followed by questions from those in the audience. Kalb said the forum will be 7-8:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 6, at the Fresh Thyme Community Room, 2410 N. Salisbury St., West Lafayette. Kalb said he is working on details for a second forum, tentatively scheduled between Nov. 1 and Nov. 3.
OTHER FORUMS, DEBATES IN THE WORKS:
Tippecanoe County sheriff: Sheriff Bob Goldsmith, a Democrat, and Republican Jason Huber, executive director of Tippecanoe County Community Corrections, will debate from 7-8 p.m. Sept. 29. The debate, carried live on WLFI, will be broadcast from the McCutcheon High School auditorium, 4951 Old U.S. 231 South. The event will be open to the public.
Township trustees: Candidates for Wabash Township trustee – Democrat Angel Valentin and Republican Eric Hoppenjans – and Fairfield Township trustee – Democrat Monica Casanova and Republican April O’Brien – will debate from 5-6 p.m. Oct. 6 at the Lafayette Jefferson High School auditorium, 1801 S. 18th St.. Those debates will be broadcast on WLFI’s website. That event will be open to the public, as well.
IF YOU KNOW OF OTHER CANDIDATE FORUMS, DEBATES OPEN TO THE PUBLIC: … let me know, and I’ll let others around here know, too. My email is at the bottom of this newsletter.
BALLOTS, VOTER REGISTRATION, ETC.: Who will be on your ballot? Are you registered to vote? If not, how can you register to vote? That and more, available at Indiana’s voter portal, Indianavoters.in.gov.
FINALLY, YOU MIGHT RECALL THIS GAME …
Thanks, again, to sponsor Stuart & Branigin for helping make this edition of the Based in Lafayette reporting project happen.
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