FRESNO, California (KSEE/KGPE) — For many, Tuesday was a dream come true. Close to 1,000 people in downtown Fresno became U.S. citizens.
“Freedom. That’s how I would describe it,” said Anton Dubchak, who is originally from Ukraine.
It was a packed house at the Fresno Convention Center, filled with families to celebrate those becoming U.S. citizens. They waited years for this day. For some, even decades.
“Thirty,” María Jobel, originally from El Salvador, said, referring to the number of years she’s waited.
“Through all of the roadblocks and everything, it took me 17 years to get here,” Eduardo Crema, originally from Venezuela, said. He’s one of three Venezuelans who became U.S. citizens in Fresno on Tuesday.
And after so much time, they were able to wave the American flag with pride as American citizens.
Each of them stood up when their country of origin was called. When Mexico was shouted, more than 500 of them stood up with pride.
“This day is really special for me, something we all should do to make a change in this country,” Juana Monreal, originally from México, said.
Norma Ontiveros-Gaspar, the executive producer at Telemundo Bakersfield, was one of the guest speakers at the naturalization ceremony. She encouraged them to use their right to vote.
“Voting is the most important goal in becoming a U.S. citizen, and it is a responsibility, but it is also a right and it’s a privilege,” Ontiveros-Gaspar said.
It’s one of many things they can now do with their new status.
“Being able to have a federal job, maybe run for office one day, that kind of stuff excites me, the sky’s the limit,” Crema said.