At least 90 Central Illinois residents crossed a stage Friday morning at the Peoria Public Library as American citizens.
“We are very happy I couldn’t sleep last night waiting for this minute,” ICC Professor, Rafeeq Al-Hashemi, who became an American citizen, said.
Al-Hashemi was joined by his fellow residents in finally finishing the naturalization process.
“It’s a long journey about more than five years. From the first day that we entered the United States we were dreaming of this minute so our dreams came true today,” he said.
The path to citizenship was different for each new citizen. For the Rao family, it started when they left India with their son 18 years ago.
“I was excited when I first stepped on the soils of America, it’s a long journey, a lot of experiences, lots of good things that have happened. Lots of learning,” Rashmi Rao said.
While politics can feel divided in the U.S. the Raos have always felt American.
“At no stage did we ever feel uncomfortable or anything or out of place. We have been treated absolutely fantastic and that’s what made our dreams come true today,” Nandashyam Rao said.
For Al-Hashemi, coming to America was a choice his family made for safety.
“We suffered a lot there in our country so we moved to Jordan then to here,” he explained. “America is a free country and we are proud of ourselves and proud of living here.”
Federal Judge James Shadid, who presented the official documents on Friday, said he seeing everyone become citizens is what America is all about and that being there to witness it reminds him of the struggles his own family faced when they immigrated from Lebanon.