JAMAICA-BORN grandmother Dorothy Elliott turns in her green card for the red, white and blue Sunday when she'll be sworn in as an American citizen.
At age 68, after 24 years of carrying an alien registration receipt card as proof that she was staying here as a permanent resident, Elliott sighs and says it's about time she took up American citizenship.
"I'm really sorry I waited until now," she said. "I'll be happy. Being an American citizen is good."
Elliott is one of 30 immigrants and refugees who will take part in a 12:30 p.m. naturalization ceremony at Patterson Park. People from 19 countries, including Burma, China, Iraq, Iran and Vietnam, will be sworn in by U.S. District Court Judge Marvin J. Garbis. The ceremony will kick off East Baltimore's I Am An American Day festivities, which will include the 53rd annual parade, dedicated this year to citizens who served in
the Persian Gulf war.
Although her 46-year-old daughter prodded Elliott to get her citizenship a long time ago, Elliott entertained thoughts of going back to Jamaica, where the climate suited her better. "She was forcing me, but I said I can't be bothered, I was going home," Elliott said. "I can't stand the weather. I kept saying, I'm going home, but I'm still here."
Still here and staying here is Alexander Turetsky, a 26-year-old Russian Jew who sought political asylum with his family 10 years ago. He'll also be sworn in as a naturalized citizen this weekend.
"I'm very proud," said Turetsky. "I worked here, studied here, got my [bachelor of science] degree here. I think I accomplished a lot here."
With the political turmoil and changes sweeping across the Soviet Union, the Towson State University graduate said he's glad to become an American citizen.
"I feel lucky to be here and sad for Russia," he said. "I know what people are going through over there. They don't have much food. They don't have a lot of good housing. And there's contamination of air, because of Chernobyl."
He looks forward to some of the benefits American citizenship brings, like a good job with the government.
"You can vote for the president, you can vote for the Congress people, you can vote for senators," he added. "The major part of being an American citizen is not carrying a green card."
The I Am An American Day parade will start at 2 p.m. at Broadway and Bank streets and travel 1.3 miles around the park. Festivities and fanfare will include a 21-cannon salute, marching bands, color guards and parachutists. Organized by Delegate Anthony DiPietro Jr., D-City, the event is expected to attract fraternal and veterans groups as well as Governor William Donald Schaefer, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and other dignitaries.
DiPietro said a husband-and-wife team who fought in the Persian Gulf war will be honored.
"I'd like to show the immigrants this is the army of freedom," said DiPietro. "We're showing appreciation to some of the armed forces. A lot of people sacrificed their lives."
For more information about the I Am An American Day parade, call 485-1200.