40 local residents officially become US citizens Friday morning at Panama City City Hall. The Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services sponsored a naturalization ceremony for the group.
The Panama City commission meeting chamber was full of people Friday morning, ready to become the United States' latest citizens. The 40 new citizens hail from 23 different countries, each leaving their home, in hopes of realizing the American dream.
"This is a happy day for all of you and your families,” said the Hon. Richard Smoak, “each of you has probably traveled a remarkable journey in life to arrive at this day and this journey has probably taken many years. This country is all the richer and more blessed by the diversity of its people."
Sharon Peoples’ journey to naturalization took 5 years. Peoples moved from her home in Ashford, Kent, Great Britain to Mexico Beach in April 2006.
"It's been a long road, a long 5 years and because now everything is good I can just get on with everything now,” exclaimed a happy Peoples. “I'm very happy about it, very excited."
To reach this day, petitioners endure a long series of interviews, background checks and tests, but Peoples says the long process was well worth the wait.
"I'm just glad that I finally made it and got my certificate and everything else, yep. And I'm very, very excited and happy. I'm going to go out tonight and yep and celebrate that!"
The government holds local naturalization ceremonies every few months with an average of about 40 petitioners, the next one is scheduled for February 8th, 2013.