Representing 28 countries, 50 immigrants gathered Thursday at the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia to become citizens of the United States.
Watching the naturalization ceremony, the audience was filled with jubilant families assembled to show support.
“We have waited so long,” said one tearful woman whose family is from Portugal.
But those sort of distinctions evaporated as the new Americans took the oath of allegiance to officially became part of the U.S. melting pot.
“It doesn’t matter if you come from Cuba, Bangladesh, Russia, or Senegal — we are all a part of the United States now,” said Victoria Porto, the city’s acting district director for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Newly minted American Abbas Khalaf, a refugee from Iraq, said he has been working for citizenship since 2010.
“I worked very hard to become U.S. citizen. Learning English and working hard helped me,” he said, adding that the journey was not easy but worthwhile.
“I think today is my life achievement, said Khalaf, surrounded by supporters and family. “It is the freedom, it is the happiness, and it means a lot for me to become a U.S. citizen.”
Khalaf now works as a refugee resettlement case manager with Lutheran Children and Family Service, the same organization that helped him on his journey to citizenship.
“We’re thrilled to see him take this step, and we know that he is going to be a great contribution to this country just as he has been over the past five years,” said Todd Miller, program manager for the Philadelphia organization.
Khalaf has been very helpful with the resettling of Syrian refugees in the Allentown area, said Miller, because he speaks Arabic and has a great understanding of Middle Eastern culture.