A Naturalization Ceremony held at the U.S. Courthouse in Rockford lets dozens of people who already call the city home now call the country theirs as well.
In total, 80 people from more than 20 countries joined the 315 million other Americans in citizenship. At the ceremony, each candidate recites the Oath of Allegiance before receiving their Certificate of Naturalization. .
"It's a great honor to be part of their journey, seeing them and hearing their struggles that they've gone through. it's a great honor I believe to just be part of this and being here at the ceremony as well just brings tears to my eyes even though I've been doing this for years" says Lisa Mahmood, Sr. Adjudication Officer for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Many of the new citizens say naturalization means more than just a piece of paper, it's also about the rights that come along with that title.
"I'm going to vote, I want everybody to exercise their right at where I come from not everybody gets this right in his own country or her own country, " says Efrem Ayichew, originally from Ethiopia, after he received his certificate.
League of women voters members like Jane Kelly get that process started with voter registration. "It's a nice way of being in service. One that is certainly very satisfying and also enjoyable, and I think meaningful for me because my parents were naturalized citizens," says Kelly.
Many of these new Americans plan to spend the rest of the day showing off their pride.
Sergio Petti, originally of Brazil, says, "I will stand up the flag I've been waiting for years to be able to put a flag in my driveway. That is what I'm going to do today."
Naturalization ceremonies are held as-needed in Rockford, which comes out to about twice per year.
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