SPOKANE, Wash. - Spokane can now count 60 new citizens among its population, coming from over 30 countries.
"I was forced to leave my country (Congo) because of war," said Benyt Mukanya Kazadi.
He said he went to Ethiopia as a refugee and that is where he met his wife from Djibouti, together they came to the U.S where they have lived for the last five years.
"I am very happy and very excited to be American," he said.
U.S. District Court Judge Rosanna Malouf Peterson oversaw the ceremony, swearing in the 60 new citizens.
She noted that although they were renouncing their legal ties to their former homes, they should never give up their culture. Culture and people mixing together from around the world is what makes the United States strong as a country, she said.
Another new citizen who made it through a lot of hardship to get to the U.S. was Ali Hashemi who, with the help of World Relief, came from Afghanistan.
"You are not safe when you are leaving home, you aren't sure if you will come back at the end of the night because of the terrorists and the bombings," he said.
He said he floated from Iran to Turkey, where he waited two years for the U.S. to accept his entry as a refugee, and has lived in Spokane for five years. Like Mukanya Kazadi and his wife, he has held employment while here.
"I am very close to getting my GED, and I hope to continue my education," he said, "I hope I can pay back coming to the United States and I hope I can pay back as much as I can."
Many of the new citizens expressed their excitement about being able to vote as part of the newly granted rights.
A number of law students attended the ceremony, which was hosted by the law school's Center for Civil and Human Rights.
Students interested in immigration law say the process is a rollercoaster of emotions, keeping families together, learning their clients back stories, and then waiting.
But getting to the naturalization ceremony makes it all worth it.
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