Charlotte, NC - U.S. Senator Thom Tillis was in charlotte this afternoon to welcome 52 immigrants, as they officially became United States citizens.
It marked a milestone years in the making for many who’ve come to this country from around the world in hopes of a brighter future. One of them was Michael Kordovan who came here from Romania.
“My country’s very corrupt and so as a student there, you don’t really have many chances. A lot of people live in poverty so they have no chances of doing whatever they want,” said Kordovan. “I came here for better opportunities.”
Friday afternoon he and 51 others took the oath of allegiance, officially making them U.S. citizens.
“I’m proud. It’s a very special day I’ve been looking forward to,” said Katherine Gomez, originally from El Salvador. “I’m just very grateful.”
Tillis joined judge David Cayer in handing out certificates of legalization during a naturalization ceremony at the courthouse.
“Often times during this ceremony you’ll have folks who’ve already served in the armed services, willing to lay down their lives for a country their not even yet citizens of. So this is the best of America,” said Tillis. “They’re what make us really great.”
Some requirements to gain legal citizenship: an immigrant has to be at least 18 years old, must have lived in the U.S. for five years or more, and must pass a citizenship test.
“They have to demonstrate a lot of knowledge about civics and United States government and they put a lot of effort and a lot of time too in just waiting for the process to play out to becoming a United States Citizen,” said Judge Cayer.
And one of the big pay-offs: having the right to vote, which in an election year opens doors for these new Americans.
“That’s the most important right that they have is to participate fully in the political process so I hope that they will answer the call.”
And Kordovan plans to answer that call, come November. He says one of his biggest concerns is keeping gay marriage legal. “I feel like a lot of candidates, especially on the Republican side, want to turn that around,” he said.
As for Gomez, she wants to cast her first vote as an American to be a voice for those who haven’t earned that right yet.
“I can speak to other people that can’t vote. I can make a change,” said Gomez.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services naturalizes roughly 700,000 immigrants in similar ceremonies throughout the country each year.