When Carlos Torres came to the United States in 2002 for volunteer work, he had no idea what his next adventure would bring.
Over the next 15 years, the Argentine native moved from New York to Florida and had two children while pursing the American Dream.
Today, part of that dream came true as Torres, along with 37 others from more than 20 countries, became a United States Citizen.
“I’m just proud to be a role model to my kids,” said Torres. He’s also looking forward to participating in a democratic process and getting a collegiate education.
Torres took part in a monthly naturalization ceremony at the Federal Courthouse in Downtown Gainesville. While Torres wanted to become a citizen for the future of his kids, Toyita Musso wanted the safety that comes with being a citizen.
“Right now I’m relaxed,” Musso said. “Everything is under control. Before I got a residence. But, it’s not secret right now with the government. It’s different.”
And with this administration, one Gainesville resident noticed something else that was different: the ceremony. Typically, the court lowers a screen and plays a welcome message from the current President of the United States after the judge administers the oath.
But nearly four months into office, President Trump has yet to record one. Still, Musso expressed her gratitude to her new country with her husband and son watching.
“Really my husband, thank you my love and thank you America,” she said holding back tears. “I’m very happy to stay here. God bless you everyone.”
Lebanese immigrant Youssef Haddad shared those sentiments, as he said 18 months of waiting on his application finally paid off.
“It’s an accomplishment that I lived here for so long,” he said. “I feel in many ways that I am an American. All I needed was this [citizenship].”
He attributed this day as a turning point, as he finally took his first steps as a U.S. citizen.
Currently, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services has planned seven more naturalization ceremonies at the federal courthouse in Gainesville this year. Requirements for citizenship include passing an English proficiency exam, taking a US Political/Gov course, and being a green card holder for at least 5 consecutive years before submitting a citizenship application.