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Fifty Children Become US Citizens

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – A special ceremony was held at the Buffalo Zoo to honor a new round of US citizens. They were all children adopted from 11 countries around the world.

About 50 children and their families gathered on the lawns of the Buffalo Zoo Wednesday for a children's citizenship ceremony. The US Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration conducted the oath. The children were adopted by families from across the Buffalo Niagara region.

Fourteen-month-old Billy George is now a US citizen and a Tonawanda resident. His mother, Chris George, says Billy is from Guatemala.

"There are a lot of reasons why we choice Guatemala -- healthier children at a young age and a short travel distance," George said. "And it worked out that it was the baby God meant for us to have."

The children ranged in age from nine months old to 14 years of age. Frances Holmes, interim district director of Buffalo's Immigration Services, says these parents had to go through an international adoption process.

"They're from every country that you can think of," Holmes said. "About 11 countries are represented -- China, Russia, Korea -- and more that I can't remember.

"These parents have decided that they wanted to bring children from other parts of the world into their homes, and they went through the international adoption process. The children are citizens as a result of enactment of a law Congress approved several years ago."

But it is a process that Chris George says was easy, as she adopted her Guatemalan son.

"We used an adoption in Cleveland," she explained. "We started the paper work in February of last year and brought him home in December."

US officials have made changes in immigration since the terror attacks of 2001. But Holmes says it really has not changed for bringing international children to live in America.

"There are certainly more elaborate name checks we are doing on everyone now-a-days, as to be expected and understood," Holmes said. "But we don't find that people are less interested. "In fact, people might be more in becoming citizens as a result of 9/11."

The Buffalo immigration office says it issues citizenship certificates to about 350 adopted children each year.