GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Our country gained 23 citizens after a naturalization ceremony in Gulfport Thursday morning. The stars and stripes were flying high in front of the federal courthouse and in the hearts of the immigrants as they officially became citizens of the United States.
"The board has executed the orders. Congratulations!" exclaimed U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden proclaiming the citizenship of the immigrants seated before him in the courtroom. The ceremony holds a deep meaning for Ozerden. He is the son of an immigrant, and had his father's suitcase, plane ticket, and certificate of citizenship on display in the courtroom.
"This is my dream," said Cambodian immigrant, Da Has. He and his wife Chanthy Ny immigrated and spent years navigating the paper trails and interviews between them and naturalization. They believed this new citizenship would open doors for the future of their family.
As for Mexican immigrant, Ilse Garcia, this was a matter of formality to follow in her family's footsteps.
She had high hopes that being a naturalized citizens would change things for her. "I didn't have as much privilege as other people did and I wanted to vote and I haven't been able to do that, so that's one of my main reasons," said Garcia.
Having a say in the future of our country drove many of these people to take the steps necessary for becoming a citizen.
Jula Barr, from Italy, wanted this moment to serve as a lesson for her son. "We can be anything we want to be and this country's great and it's going to give us so many opportunities and so I'm proud and happy to be an American," said Barr.
Other countries represented in Thursday's naturalization ceremony included Vietnam, China, Jamaica and India.