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Becoming a U.S. Citizen: A Jazz Musician’s Special Instant in Time

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(Between June 30 and July 4,  we welcomed more than 7,000 new citizens during nearly 100 naturalization ceremonies in honor of Independence Day. We are featuring stories from some of these new U.S. citizens to show how immigrants add to the strength and character of our nation.)

For jazz musician Enrique Haneine, everything seems to be coming together. This past week, he achieved what he calls “the dream and honor” of becoming a U.S. citizen during a special ceremony at the New York Public Library. His music career is also in full bloom. He recently released his latest album, Instants in Time.

Haneine was born in Mexico City to a family with Lebanese roots. His parents emphasized the importance of education. He earned degrees in music and economics in Mexico, and then moved to Boston to pursue a master’s degree in jazz at the Berklee College of Music.

All the while, he felt that his passion and the ideals that jazz embodied were guiding him on a journey: “I love the spontaneity and improvisation of music and jazz, and how it invites all participants, it becomes a universal language. Jazz for me equals freedom, a place of expression, no matter where you are from, it accepts. At the same time, there is a level of mastery and technique you need to have to express and propose your ideas.”

To Haneine, the values that he found in jazz are the same values that he found in the United States. “Jazz brings many cultures and dreams together and creates unity, much like this country. No matter where you are from, you have something to contribute.”

Above: Haneine at the New York Public Library for his naturalization ceremony

His musical journey and the decision to become a citizen flowed naturally from each other. “What I believe in syncs in perfectly, I couldn’t imagine myself being someplace else. What I am doing is serving. Just the fact that I can make someone feel something through my work is fulfilling.”

Haneine (center) takes the Oath of Allegiance with fellow candidates

During his naturalization ceremony, Haneine was particularly impressed by the roll call of nations, a moment when candidates stand as the country of origin of each individual is read aloud. Afterward, the candidates stand together and take the Oath of Allegiance to become citizens of their new nation, the United States.

A Proud New Citizen

Although he has four degrees, Haneine loves that the process of learning is never ending. His journey to citizenship would not have been possible had he not come to the United States as a student. “It is a constant search. The best teachers are eternal students - you never finish learning. You learn every day, there is always something to learn. One has to keep growing.” Now living in New York City, he has found an environment where music and musicians from around the world flourish and intermingle.

"The things I believe in, the process, goes hand-in-hand with the United States. Learning is not about finishing. Things are just starting, and I am so excited about everything beginning and everything that is coming in the future.”