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Refugees Become US Citizens At Jacksonville Main Library

Gregory Todaro

Jacksonville’s Main Library hosted the naturalization of 30 new American citizens Friday. The ceremony was part of the city’s observance of World Refugee Day.

Lita Amin left Iraq in 2009. Being a Christian woman who worked with embassies in the region, she says was in “triple trouble.” But it wasn’t until she started a family that she says she felt truly in danger.

“We received a letter home with a bullet,” she said. “It was like, ‘This time we send it to you in an envelope, next time it’s going to be in your head.’ So what are you going to do? Continue? Or you just run away for your life and your family? So we ran away.”

She says she became an American citizen last year.

As Amin adjusted to American life, she says she decided to reach out to help other refugees in their transitions. Working through the organization World Relief, she met others who, like her, fled their native countries.

Hassan Albanna says he also fled Iraq because of religious persecution.

“I mean, I care about my salvation,” he said.

He says he arrived in the U.S. in early 2010, and today he is taking part in the library's ceremony.

“I feel safe now," he said. "I feel free.”

Other new citizens like Natalia Moyano have been in the country for much longer: Her family was given asylum from Colombia when she was 8 years old. For her, life in America is all she knows, and she can’t help but cry after taking her Oath of Allegiance.

“Finally, to have it on paper, to know that, that’s it. I’m American. I can fight for them, I can do whatever an American can," she said.

After the ceremony, the new citizens were offered voter registration forms before heading to a celebration in Hemming Park.