Joy Muita, originally from Kenya, could hardly contain her smile after she took the Oath of Allegiance and became an American citizen on July 4, 2013. For her husband and children, citizenship was the culmination of a 17-year journey.
Tampa, Florida - They took their Oath of Allegiance with hands of various hues held high, the other clutching flags of red, white and blue. In a room at the Tampa Bay History Center on Thursday, 65 people from 27 countries were now united by a common goal.
"Congratulations, you are now U.S. citizens," Immigration officer Leslie Meeker announced to a cheering crowd.
Joy Muita, originally from Kenya, could hardly contain her smile. For her husband and children, citizenship was the culmination of a 17-year journey.
"It's actually overwhelming," she said of the experience. "Very happy-very blessed to be U.S. citizens."
Photos: Pics of the proud, new U.S. citizens!
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn had the honor of handing out the precious certificates, but he told the gathering that being a citizen involves more than possessing a piece of paper. He encouraged people to vote and become involved in their communities.
"My fellow citizens, my fellow Americans-welcome," Buckhorn said.
In the front row, Ahmad Elshaar listened intently. He joined a new country, even as his homeland of Egypt dissolved into turmoil and uncertainty. He now hopes Egypt will draw on some of the values he found in the United States.
"Unity is the strength for a great country," he said. "That's what Egypt needs-unity with the people."
And 35 years after leaving Mexico and raising a family in the U.S., Maria Hernandez Deleon became a citizen- on the 4th of July and on her 72nd birthday. With five of her children working for the Manatee County Sheriff's Office, her daughter Gloria says America has truly been a land of opportunity and she's proud of her mother.
"[She brought] us to America for a better life and the education. We have good jobs, good opportunities everywhere we go," said a teary-eyed Gloria Rico.
The group left the Tampa Bay History Center for parties with family and friends. They will now be writing a new chapter of their personal history as Americans.
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