GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Thursday morning, 32 strangers with one common bond gathered inside the Gulfport federal courthouse. They had a lot to be excited about after officially sealing their status as U.S. citizens.
“I mean I’m just living the dream right now. It’s a dream come true for me. For me and my family," said Yukuno Yeffu Livingston, a new citizen.
With hands over hearts, immigrants from 18 nations came together in Gulfport to take an oath of allegiance to the United States.
The path to citizenship can take several years, even with the proper documents. Still, some say the feeling of becoming undeniably American is worth the wait.
“Believe in the system. It’s fair, it’s patient, and when it’s your time, they will call you," said Doreen Pfeiffer, a Kenyan native.
Pride filled the courtroom as U.S. District Judge Louis Guirola, Jr. handed the new citizens their certificates. He said for many, citizenship marks a new beginning.
“When they say it’s a country of opportunities, it’s for real,” Pfeiffer said. “You can be whatever you want to be, you have the freedom to vote, any religion you want, just freedom of everything.”
At a time when immigration can be a polarizing issue, this naturalization ceremony brought together 32 people: 32 new American citizens. Despite the negative perception some carry toward immigrants, many like Tatiana McDonald said they are ready to push forward in pursuit of the American dream.
“America is an immigrant country," McDonald said. “We are the backbone of this country, and no matter what, we still are going to continue to help.”