People from 46 countries from around the world gathered at the Muhammad Ali Center in downtown Louisville on Friday for a single purpose: to take the oath of allegiance to become naturalized U.S. citizens.

Some wore the traditional outfits from their countries of origins, some wore head scarves and others wore ties. Some wore dangly earrings, others dangled children in their arms. Many held miniature American flags, all put their hands to their hearts and pledged allegiance to the United Stated of America.

In lieu of having each participant state their names, U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman had groups stand as he called out each country in attendance. Among them, Bhutan, Myanmar, Burundi, Canada, Congo, Cuba, Iraq, Mexico, Honduras, Philippines and Somalia.

Fidela Tuyisenge and her 64-year-old mother Nikiza from Burundi have been in the country for 12 years. They’ve spent the last two years studying for the citizenship test.

“Now we have an opportunity to take advantage of every opportunity as a U.S. citizen,” Tuyisenge said.

Others, like Jasmin Ozuna felt a sense of pride and relief. Ozuna’s mother Juana fled Mexico because of violence from drug cartels.

“Because it is difficult time and it’s not so easy, so I think that’s pretty much what prompted her to make the effort to become a citizen because of the times we are living in right now,” Ozuna said.

After taking their oaths, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer congratulated the new citizens and thanked them for their contributions.

“You are now our citizens,” Fischer said. “You make our country stronger, richer, more interesting, more beautiful.”


Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter.