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Remnants of Hurricane Harvey Friday washed out the start of the 15th annual WorldFest, the international festival hosted by Louisville Metro Government. But there was one part of the festival that went on despite the rain — the swearing in of nearly 200 Kentuckians who now call themselves United States citizens.

Philip Naer, from South Sudan, has been in Louisville for eight years. He says citizenship in his new country allows him to reunite with his family members, who are more than 7,000 miles away.

“It’s very important for me to go back and visit them over there when I have citizenship of America,” he says. “I’ll have a passport … I’ll be allowed to go back and visit them.”

Philip NaerRoxanne Scott | wfpl.org

Philip Naer

The largest group represented at the naturalization ceremony was from Cuba. Shaela Alvarez was a part of that group and has lived in Louisville for almost six years.

“I’m feeling super excited, super blessed,” says Alvarez. “It’s a dream, you know come true.”

 

Sheala lvarez (left) and familyRoxanne Scott | wfpl.org

Sheala lvarez (left) and family

She says her citizenship also wasn’t only just about her.

“It’s very important because it’s the future for my family,” Alvarez says. “You know, for my kids — they are citizens.

Kentucky’s newest citizens are part of the nearly 160,000 immigrants who call the state home.

Roxanne Scott covers the economy for WFPL News.