GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Sixteen people from 14 different countries have a good reason to celebrate.
The individuals became naturalized U.S. citizens during a ceremony at the federal courthouse in Gulfport Thursday morning.
"Congratulations. The American dream, as I think you all know or you wouldn't be here, is a reality. This is a very special day for you, but also for this country and this community," said Judge Sul Ozerden, as he welcomed the group to his courtroom.
In pursuit of America, the new citizens came from various places; including Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Colombia and Cuba.
"United States citizenship brings with it freedoms, rights and privileges that are without equal anywhere else on this planet," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Graben.
Judge Ozerden shared his immigration story, noting his cherished mementos include his father's naturalization certificate and suitcase.
"My father came to this country 53 years ago in 1963 from Turkey, and became a naturalized American citizen," said Ozerden. "They are constant reminders - they sit in my office - of what a special honor and privilege it is to be an American citizen."
Judge Ozerden told the group that with their pursuit of happiness comes responsibility.
"For those of you who are willing to work toward your goals, anything is possible; both for you and your children."
"It's a great day for us. It's a land of opportunity and freedom. And we appreciate freedom," said Efrain Torres.