Immigrants Granted Citizenship in Rockford

By: Narina Crain
By: Narina Crain

It's a privilege most of us are born with, but becoming an American citizen was much more difficult for some 233 immigrants. Some lived here in the stateline for decades before they officially became an American at Rock Valley College on Friday.

"I was living on a green card since '91 and then last April I initiated the process," said Kevin Jesmer, a former Canadian citizen.

All of the immigrants sworn in on Friday have been living in the United States legally for at least five years. People who do not have their legal documentation cannot apply for American citizenship.

"Some people entered as refugees and they have green cards upon entry that allow them to work and live in the United States. Others are sponsored immigrants," said Amy Massot with Rock Valley College.

Most of the new citizens came to the United States for the same reason as our ancestors; they believe America is a land of freedom and possibilities.

"It's bigger opportunities here. I can go to school. When I finish school I get a nice job and work," said Vladimir Silchuk, a former citizen of Ukraine.

Some of these immigrants do not think those trying to live here illegally should have the same rights as those who wait for the legal process.

"It's bad for us because we had to do the paperwork, we had to wait. When they just come in illegally and get the same privileges, it's not fair to us," said Silchuk.

The new citizens had to go through a yearlong process of interviews, tests and paperwork. Now they can finally enjoy what so many other foreign citizens are denied., a chance at the American dream.

All the requirements for becoming a U.S. citizen are posted online. To learn more about the process, log onto www.uscis.gov.


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