New U.S. citizens ready to enjoy benefits

By Danielle Thomas - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Immigrants who've spent years living in United States say they are happy to finally be able to take advantage of all the opportunities this country has to offer.

On Wednesday, at the federal courthouse in Gulfport, nearly three dozen people from 11 different countries took the citizenship oath. Some talked about how they expect their lives will change.

Fadia Maloof said she immigrated to the United States 10 years ago for one reason.

"Freedom. Freedom," Maloof said. "First of all freedom. Free to speak. Free to do anything you want to do. It's not as any country."

Many people who became American citizens Wednesday said they have been living in the country for decades, some nearly all their lives. They said the difference will be as citizens they have more opportunities for jobs and much more.

Armando Coquet is from Panama, but grew up in the U.S.

"It means a lot. All I know is the United States of America. It's nice to have it legalized and a big milestone in my life. It will give me the opportunities to, like, vote and take part in important decisions."

The new Americans say they are ready to exercise their right to vote and give back to the country that has given them so much.

Chau Yen Bui left Vietnam 22 years ago.

"Oh my God. You don't know what I've gone through. I'm so happy. I don't know what to say. I'm so, so happy because I become American."

Fadia Maloof said being an American has another important perk. It is now easier to keep ties to the family she left behind in Syria-Damascus.

"I have passport,  American passport," Maloof said. " I can go to my country easy and come back for visiting. It's easy."

Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge John Roper presided over the naturalization ceremony. He told the new citizens that along with their new rights come responsibilities like voting and serving on juries.

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