HATTIESBURG, MS (WLOX) - The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi held a naturalization ceremony at Oak Grove High School in Hattiesburg on Thursday.
With a big crowd of supporters and students to witness, 29 people become citizens of the United States.
It was a picture of what many lawmakers want to see - a legal process to citizenship.
"Everyone here today has done everything the law requires to become a citizen, has shown dedication to the country, and we celebrate that," said U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Parker. "This is a happy thing."
Parker oversaw the ceremony that included his sister-in-law.
"What policy makers do about immigration I guess is their business," Parker said. "From a court's perspective, we simply enforce the law as to whatever it might be. But the one thing on immigration that everyone agrees on is this process."
It was a joyful day for Reneil Coote of Gulfport. After six years in the country, the Jamaican native is now a U.S. citizen.
But, the current climate put his legalization process into a higher gear.
"Yeah, it kind of helped me speeding my process up, because I was a bit nervous – I'm not going to lie," Coote said. "Because the suspense, you don't really know what's going to happen."
While immigration reform is controversial, the 29 people who participated say the legal way is the right way.
Ingrid Espinosa of Jackson came from Chile to advance her education, and is a biomedical science Ph.D. candidate at Ole Miss.
"It's a very conflicted time, I know," Espinosa said. "But I always say, if we do the things in the right way we will always have a good end....Follow your principals and do the right things, and I don't think you will have problems."
Cristina Macovei of Gulfport immigrated from Moldova.
"Everything is important. Everything must go by the law," Macovei said. "I think that's more important, just go by the law and follow the rules."