100-Year-Old Bhutanese Refugee Becomes U.S. Citizen

Monday, January 21st 2019, 3:18 pm
By: News 9

A small room in a St. Louis home felt even smaller on Friday afternoon when it was packed with people for a very special naturalization ceremony.

Gobin Rai, a 100 year old Bhutanese refugee, swore to an oath and became a U.S. Citizen, something that was a life long goal of his.

Judge E. Richard Webber, Jr., a senior U.S. District Court judge for Eastern Missouri, personally came to Rai's home in the Carondelet neighborhood to administer the oath since Rai is bedridden.

Rai had a Bhuanese translator, Praja Dhital, on hand for the ceremony.

During the ceremony, Judge Webber Jr. gave Rai an American flag, a flag pin and a certificate, proving his citizenship.

Judge Webber Jr. told Rai during the ceremony, "You're soon going to have a country of origin, a country you can claim as your own." The judge said this because up until now, Rai considered himself "stateless." He was driven out of Bhutan more than 20 years ago by violence and was living in a refugee camp in Nepal.

Rai moved to St. Louis in 2012 and got a green card, which he had to have for 5 years before being eligible for the naturalization test.

The U.S. Naturalization office provides disability waivers if the person has a physical and/or mental disability that lasts more than 12 months. Rai received this waiver being physically disabled at his age. This allowed him to more easily pass the citizenship test.

Rai told his translator how he felt in that moment he became a U.S. citizen saying, "I want to tell all my people that this country, America, is a great country. There is no other country better than this in the world," said Rai.