As the nation grapples with undocumented immigrants seeking a path to citizenship, thirty-five people in Mississippi, are celebrating their new status as U.S. Citizens.
"U.S. citizenship brings with it freedoms, rights and privileges that are without equal anywhere else in this planet,"
Immigrants and their families are at Northwest Jackson Middle School for a Naturalization Ceremony. Some arrived as early as 7 a.m., for the 10:30 program. Forty-seven year old Oby Miriam Todd is from Nigeria. Her husband is from Laurel. She began the process of becoming a citizen five years ago.
"Who doesn't want to be an American? It's an opportunity. It's the number one opportunity any body can have. It's like a new birth," said Todd.
According the Pew Research Center there are about 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. Many want a path to citizenship without leaving the country. But critics say they should be deported and then apply for legal status. Todd agrees immigrants should be in the country legally.
"We all born in different countries. We don't chose where we're born. But it's your choose to decide to move to another country. You just have to go through the proper channel," said Todd.
For Moises Rodriguez of Venezuela, baseball opened the door to U.S. citizenship. The married father of two played in the minor leagues with the Florida Marlins and Cleveland Indians. Now a coach at Trinity Episcopal School in Natchez, he says it took 12 years to become a citizen. He's grateful and empathizes with undocumented immigrants.
"I haven't met anybody who has come here for the wrong reasons to harm anybody to rob people or anything like that. I've only met people who have come here for the right reasons to better themselves and to better their families," said Rodriguez.
Two people from Sudan and Yemen took part in the naturalization ceremony. The countries are included in President Trump's controversial immigration ban.