More than one thousand new Americans raised their right hands and pledged their allegiance to the United States Wednesday at a naturalization ceremony at Turner Field in Atlanta. The new U.S. citizens came from 120 different countries including Afghanistan, Jamaica and Columbia.
“Being part of this nation is an honor,” said Oscar Beltran, who immigrated from Columbia in March 2001. “It was like a dream. I mean, you know, when you come to the U.S., this is the land of opportunity. You know that if you work hard and you study and you learn the culture and you learn to work hard every day, you’re going to make it.”
Beltran went through the proper channels to come to the United States and spent 8 years going through the naturalization process.
But the same opportunities that draw people like Beltran often compel others to sneak into the country illegally and that has pushed the immigration debate to a tipping point in the U.S.
Earlier this week, President Barack Obama announced he would use his executive powers to implement immigration reform, because of a lack of action by Congress.
“Solutions…answers [are] what I want,” said Beltran. “I think that they have to sit together at the table, right, and just come up with a solution. You might have a different point of view, but we need a solution at this time.”
Beltran believes, however, that the slow reform process is not an invitation to people to cross the border illegally.
The issue is not as black and white for Dalia Barrios, who also became a citizen Wednesday after immigrating from Columbia.
“There are out there people that are illegal, but they are really good people,” Barrios explained. “They are working hard. They really follow the rules. They try to make the best in this country. So, I think those kind people really need to have a chance.”