PHOENIX — Acquiring U.S. citizenship isn't an easy process. Just ask anyone who's taken the journey.
It can be daunting and labor intensive, not to mention expensive when you factor in attorney fees.
For those who completed the process with a special U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ceremony in Avondale this weekend, holding their certificate in hand that proves it's official holds deep meaning.
“We’ve been looking forward to this day to the point that I can actually say I’m an American citizen… This is a very, very exciting day for me,” said Ali Abidali.
He has been waiting for this day for nearly two decades.
“I’ve been raised here,” he said. “I feel American, you know. I talk like an American. This is just an official stamp that says I am American.”
Everyone has a different story about how they got to this point.
“My parents actually fled from Iraq back in 1979, fleeing from Saddam Hussein’s regime and they fled from persecution,” said Abidali. “They ended up in Canada, stayed there for a few years and my father ultimately came to America where he built businesses and had five children.”
Eduardo Silva Carroll from Brazil is celebrating his citizenship too.
“I can vote, you know, I can actually be more involved in the life of the country,” he said.
His citizenship also puts his wife at ease.
“It makes us very happy to know that we’re not going to be separated anymore by documentation issues,” said Aileen Silva Carroll, Eduardo’s wife.
The ceremony made 40 people from 23 countries new U.S. citizens.
“To see the joy that it brings to the new citizens is exciting,” said Charles Harrell, USCIS Phoenix section chief.
Everyone shares a common goal. They spent the time, energy and spent the money to complete the process, that for Abidali took a total of 18 years.
“For the first time, I got to hear 'The Star-Spangled Banner' and I’m an American,” Abidali said. “It was pretty amazing, it was a great feeling— holding back some tears, but it’s good.”
This was USCIS' sixth year partnering with Avondale and Goodyear to host a naturalization ceremony during their internationally-themed CulturePOP festival.