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More than 30 individuals from countries like Cuba, Mexico, Philippines and Canada walked out of Central Community College-Columbus as U.S. citizens on Thursday.

“It feels awesome after trying for so long,” said Daniel Osuna, who is originally from Mexico.

It took Osuna, who has been living in West Point for 16 years, six years to reach this milestone. He said he wanted to be a bigger part of his community and family, which were major drives behind his goal.

Centro Hispano, which is a nonprofit organization providing immigration legal services and education through various programming, has been hosting the Naturalization Ceremony for several years, in collaboration with the U.S. Citizenship Immigration Services office in the area.  The Naturalization Ceremony is the final step toward U.S. citizenship, where applicants are scheduled to take their Oath of Allegiance.

“Some of these participants have gone through our clinics and we helped naturalize them here and they ended up taking their oaths here in Columbus,” said Karina Perez, executive director for Centro Hispano. “So it’s nice that some of them are participants that we’ve seen through the whole journey and some of them are from around the state.”

Columbus resident Claudia Ramos waited approximately three months to become an American citizen. Ramos, who is originally from Cuba, said there are a lot more opportunities in the U.S. She currently attends CCC-Columbus to complete her general education before moving on to study radiology.

“I live here with my whole family,” Ramos said. “(I love) the opportunities you have, (like) work. They pay really good; like I can come to college (and) get a new life.”

Perez said the journey toward citizenship is not an easy one to take. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, individuals have to be at least 18. They must also have had permanent resident status in the U.S. for at least five years, or for at least three years if you're filing as the spouse of a U.S. citizen, to be eligible to submit their applications. Perez said those who are eligible can proceed to submit their applications, along with the USCIS immigration fee of $725, followed by a waiting period for the interview process. She added the majority of applicants work hard to prepare for the interviews.

After an individual goes through the entire application process, she noted, it can take anywhere from several months to a year-and-a-half before they are able to receive their citizenship.

“So it has been a long journey for most of these individuals,” she said. “For the most of them, it’s important for the security of knowing that they are able to stay here with no worries and not having to worry about anything else. For the security of their employment. I think those are important things for them and their families’ well-being.”

Natasya Ong is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at natasya.ong@lee.net.

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