GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - It was a time for celebration in a federal courtroom on the Coast on Thursday morning as 23 people officially became U.S. citizens.
Years of hard work led to this moment for nearly two dozen brand new citizens. "I'm so proud. I'm so happy. This is an amazing moment. It's like I'm a part of this country right now. I'm a piece of it," said native Egyptian Maha Eldek.
The 23 new citizens represented 16 different countries all around the world. After swearing an oath of allegiance, their determination paid off.
For Saaed Ebod from Yemen, it was a long two year process. "It is a lot of work. It's a tough time. It's not easy. But I'm glad I have it. Glad I did it," said Ebod.
Ebod was looking forward to the rest of his family becoming citizens.
As for Rami Aqrabawi from Jordan, this was the culmination of an almost four year process. It's something that he would recommend to those wanting to live in the U.S. legally. "The process is not as difficult as it might seem, but it's just a matter of time, so go ahead and start it," said Aqrabawi.
Aqrabawi met his wife, Casey Hill, in Mississippi, and will be graduating from college soon. He and his wife say this was the next logical step. "It will mean a lot for his life and our life together, so it means a lot to me," said Hill.
Knowing that this ceremony would open up a whole new world of opportunity gave Aqrabawi a sense of pride and patriotism. "It was extremely emotional. It's an honor to become a citizen of the greatest nation on Earth. It's worth it. It's absolutely worth it," said Aqrabawi.
Other countries represented at Thursday's ceremony included Costa Rica, El Salvador, China, and Vietnam just to name a few.