Immigrant families become US citizens after decades in East Tennessee

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Several East Tennessee families are officially becoming American citizens. There are seven naturalization ceremonies this week at the federal courthouse in Knoxville. So many are happening because of an effort to catch up on the backlog of citizen applications.

It was a surreal moment for 30 people with 19 different nationalities, some waiting nearly their entire lives to become US citizens.

Everyone had their right hand held high while taking an oath to uphold the Constitution. Julia Rusinol is becoming a US citizen and getting a lot of support from her daughter, Florencia, and husband, Antonio. All three are originally from Argentina. Each became US citizens in different ceremonies Thursday.

“I feel great, I feel very honored to finally become a U.S. citizen of the United States where we’ve lived for almost 20 years,” said Julia.

“The whole family in two days is so exciting. We’re finally taking that step and everything feels complete,” said Florencia.

Mirtha Melendez said she has been waiting for this moment for 16 years and she cannot wait to celebrate.

“I’m excited, nervous and thankful too,” said Melendez. “We’re going to take advantage of this because it’s a pretty good opportunity to be a citizen.”

Surrounded by their loved ones, several new East Tennesseans commented on their first plans as US citizens.

“Well the first thing that I’m going to do is apply for [my] oldest daughter a green card,” said Melendez.

“I’m going to get my passport so I can travel as a U.S. Citizen,” said Julia Rusinol.

“Register to vote,” said Florencia Rusinol. “Me too, register to vote,” said Antonio Rusinol.

There are three more ceremonies Friday at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., and 1:30 p.m. All are held at the Howard Baker Junior U.S. Courthouse and are open to the public.

Copyright 2016 WATE. All rights reserved.

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