Nearly 150 people from 45 different countries became United States citizens Friday afternoon.

They gathered for the annual mass naturalization ceremony at the Muhammad Ali Center. U.S. District Judge David J. Hale led the swearing in process.

As the newly minted citizens lowered their right hands, some had tears in their eyes. Others shared high-fives with friends.

For many, the process of becoming a U.S. citizen took years — for some, decades. Despite the struggle that comes with navigating a new country, a new culture and a new language, many considered their new status as American citizens well worth the effort.

WFPL asked several people what U.S. citizenship means to them, here’s what we heard.

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Wilder Portal

“For people who want to be successful, this is the right country,” said Wilder Portal, from Peru.

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Barbaro Alvarez (second from left) with his family.

“Citizenship means to me freedom that we don’t have in our country, the stuff we can work for that we don’t have in our country, the liberty that we have to go everywhere that we don’t have in our country,” said Barbaro Alvarez, from Cuba.

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Alice Kordahdoe

“It means so much to me. It means the world to me. I’m so happy and proud to be a citizen,” said Alice Kordahdoe, from Liberia.

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Ziyad Ribariby

“It’s a great day today to become a United States citizen. It is the future. It is my dream, and I got it today.”

Jacob Ryan is a reporter for the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.