Judge Louis Guirola took his place on the bench in Gulfport's new federal courthouse. "We are here of course today for what I like to call a celebration," he told the courtroom gathering.
In the crowd were 35 foreigners who wanted to become U.S. citizens.
The celebration started with the William Carey Singers performing "America the Beautiful". Moments later, assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Graben stepped forward. "Each applicant has been found to be fully qualified in every respect for citizenship as set forth in the laws of the United States of America," he told the judge.
One of those applicants was Boris Gheorghiu. The Austrian immigrant waited 55 years before he officially swore his allegiance to America. "I'm really proud of what I did today," he said. Gheorghiu said he decided to apply for citizenship right after the September 11th tragedies. "I changed my mind at that point," he said. "I want to be a citizen." Gheorghiu took his oath with a heavy heart. Just a day earlier, the Hattiesburg man lost his mother.
Silvia Rossana Arias sat a row in front of Gheorghiu. The Peru native moved to the United States in 1987. The future attorney formed deep roots in this country. Those roots sprouted her desire to take the oath of allegiance. "I mean it was time for me to get my naturalization, since I've been here, my two brothers are here," she said. "I'm very happy to live in this country."
After the oath, the 35 people stepped forward one at a time to pick up their naturalization certificates, and an American flag. Judge Guirola shook each person's hand, and offered congratulations. He also had this message, "I'm here to tell you as the son of Cuban immigrants that the American dream is alive, and it's well."