Proud to be an American: Refugees become U.S. citizens

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Proud to be an American: Refugees become U.S. citizens

CREATED Jun 24, 2012

Reporter: Marcelino Benito

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - It's a little known fact, but 11,000 refugees call Tucson home. They are people forced to flee their own countries in search of the American dream. Saturday, that dream came true for several local children at Tucson's World Refugee Fest. Twenty-seven refugee children finally became U.S. citizens.

"They have all seen war," said Megan Fabry, co-chair of Tucson Refugee Fest. "They've had family members die. They've had kids die. They've seen the hardest that life can bring to you."

Life brought them to the Old Pueblo. Special guests Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and Pima County Supervisor Richard Elias were on hand to witness the special ceremony and welcome them into this inclusive club. The children put their hands on their hearts, pledged allegiance to the flag and earned U.S. citizenship.

9OYS reporter Marcelino Benito asked refugees how they felt after becoming U.S. citizens. 16-year-old Somalian refugee Mohamed Abdikadir replied, "I can't believe I'm a U.S. citizen. It's incredible. It's great to part of a great nation."

Abdikadir's parents were forced to flee Somalia because of civil war in the country. They came to Tucson in search of a better life. Without them, Abdikadir could not have claimed citizenship.

"I don't think I'll ever forget this day," he said. "I will take this to my grave."

Fabry tells KGUN 9 these ceremonies mean a lot to refugees and their families. After years of struggle, it's finally official. They finally have a new country to call home, new land to call their own.

It was an emotional afternoon for these children, topped off with a special video message from the President himself. In the video, President Obama reminds everyone "in America no dream is impossible." It's a message these children take to heart.

"My dreams are actually a lot," Abdikadir said. "I want to be on the U.S. Olympic team. I want to start my own business and be an entrepreneur. I have a lot of dreams. I'm not sure what will come true, but hopefully they all will."

The children ranged in age from 8 to 18, and are originally from countries like Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Somalia, Sudan and Uzbekistan.