GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Refugees seeking freedom and parents wanting a better life for their children took the oath of allegiance to become American citizens Thursday at the Gulfport Federal Courthouse.
"I left Nigeria because the war and then I left went to Sierra Leone, there was another war," Chinyere Eccles James said, "I have been looking for a safe haven."
For her entire life she has been forced to moved from place to place to stay alive.
"It's just not nice to leave your family at a tender age and be out and have to adapt to different environments, make new friends," James said. "By the time you get older, you don't even know where your original friends are."
Never again will she be a refugee, she is now a citizen of the land of the free. Her husband, Ked Eccles James, also took the Oath of Allegiance.
"It's a great feeling. We worked hard and have come a long way," Ked Eccles James said.
All 12 men and women each have their own reasons for wanting to become a citizen of the United States. So instead of Judge Louis Guirola sharing his story of becoming naturalized, he handed the microphone to them.
"Today my dream came true," Maria Leonte from Romania said. "I was born in a communist country. Since I was six years old, I was dreaming of escaping communism and here I am today 30 years old and I'm a free citizen."
Asmaa Whayeb from Iraq said, "I've been waiting for this for ten years, I have been here since 2003 and now I can bring my family over from Iraq to a safer, better place."
Hailing from all over the world these men and women shared the same dream.
Hani Saleh's wife and two children are Americans and now the Yemen native is too. "Everyone wish to come to America, everyone wish for citizenship," Saleh said.
That dream is now reality.
Chinyere Eccles James said no one should ever take being an American for granted. "The sky is only the beginning, not the limit. It's just the beginning because you can be anything and do anything you want in this country."