Naturalization ceremony welcomes 29 new American citizens

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Lincoln, NE (KOLN) -- Nebraska welcomes around 3,000 new American citizens every year. On Saturday at the Van Brunt Visitors Center in downtown Lincoln, it welcomed 29 new American citizens from 14 different countries.

"It was not easy, it's been waiting a long time, hoping for this day," says Jackeline Esquibel, a new U.S. citizen. For Jackeline, she's been working towards her citizenship for the last 18 years after her parents brought her to America from Guatemala.

For Hans Agarwal, he's been in the U.S. just a year longer, but has been working for the last five years to obtain his U.S. citizenship.

"I was actually born in Germany, and I'm an Indian citizen and I grew up in Singapore but moved to the United States in 1997," says Agarwal.

The phrase, "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness..." holds a special place in the heart of all Americans because it grants us freedoms and rights that aren't available everywhere you go. For people like Jackeline and Hans, they understand that better than most.

"It's something to be cherished in a lot of different ways, you know, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness...it's a good thing," says Agarwal. "A lot of countries don't have that and people, I guess, don't recognize how good they have it here, so take stock of what you have and be thankful for everything that you have."

For Jackeline, Hans and the 27 other new Americans from Saturday's ceremony, it's the end of a long journey, but as Mayor Beutler said, it's important for them to remember the beginning as well.

"Becoming a citizen doesn't take away who you are...I think that people should be encouraged to follow their traditions and their cultures, and keep pursuing that because that's what makes them who they are," adds Agarwal.

Because those traditions and cultures are what makes up America's melting pot.

"Diversity is a good thing," says Agarwal.

Becoming a naturalized citizen is a long process. Applicants must be at least 18 years old, been a permanent resident for at least five years, be able to read, write and speak basic english, and have a basic understanding of U.S. history and government along with going through interviews and other applications.

The new citizens came from all over the world, including countries such as Burma, India, Mexico, Guatemala, Iraq, and Canada.