Immigrant Advocates Salute Meb Keflezighi, Boston Marathon Winner and Naturalized American

First U.S. runner to win since 1983 brings city, nation and world together at Patriot's Day event

April 22, 2014 BOSTON — Cheers could be heard sweeping through the pack of runners at the Boston Marathon, as news spread that the first person to cross the finish line was Meb Kefleziighi, the first U.S. runner to win the race since 1983. The news also struck a chord of pride among local immigrant advocates, who noted that the 38-year-old Keflezhighi is also an American by choice, having taken the oath of citizenship at age 22, a decade after he arrived in San Diego with his family from their native Eritrea. Over 18 million Americans have also completed their own immigrant journeys by taking the same oath, and Keflezhigi raised their profile the moment he decided to run the Boston Marathon a year ago, when he was an observer of the tragedy near the finish line.

"Born in Eritrea, Meb Keflezighi decided to become American as a young man, and then he decided at age 37 to run the Boston Marathon, to reclaim it for the victims whose names he wore on his shirt, for a city he loved, for the nation he made his own, and for the cause of peace and unity among people everywhere," said Eva Millona, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA). "His deeds remind us of why MIRA does its work with new Americans, including our monthly naturalization clinics to help qualified candidates apply for citizenship. All these applicants begin a triumphant new chapter when they complete the process and become citizens, and Meb Keflezighi proves the great distances they can travel from that moment, both for themselves and for the nation to which they pledge their loyalty."

Those sentiments were echoed four days before the Boston Marathon by U.S. Senator Ed Markey when he spoke at the Seaport World Trade Center, where 1,704 immigrants from 131 countries became new Americans at the largest naturalization ceremony held in Massachusetts this year. "You have all chosen to be citizens of the United States, and I am testament to what can happen," said the Senator, describing his family's travels from a tiny Irish village, to Malden and Lawrence, and then to the U.S. Senate. Motioning to the other dignitaries on stage, Senator Markey also noted that the same Irish village was home to the parents of USCIS District Director Denis Riordan, and that U.S. District Court Judge Rya Zobel was a childhood survivor of the Holocaust. Though their accents may be different, he noted, the aspirations of all those in attendance are the same.

"When you shine, our country shines," the Senator said. "Like millions of mirrors concentrating and projecting our values and hopes outwards to the rest of the world, it stirs people to pursue liberty where they live." To that end, the Senator said, your first actions should be "to register to vote in this country."

As if on cue, volunteers from MIRA and allied organizations awaited with registration forms for the hundreds of new immigrants as they left the building and poured out into the bright spring day in Boston.

NOTE: The Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition will further celebrate the heroism and patriotism of new Americans  when we honor Carlos Arrredondo, a Costa Rican immigrant who became a hero of the 2013 Marathon, at our annual gala Give Liberty a Hand on Thursday, May 29. Visithttp://www.miracoalition.org/glah2014 for sponsorships and tickets.