Harrisonburg is becoming a melting pot for many different ethnic groups eager to settle and start a family. Thursday, 39 immigrants were naturalized at the federal district court house in Harrisonburg.
Despite all the pressure coming from federal and local governments to crack down on illegal immigration, these immigrants are now happy to call themselves U.S. citizens. For some of them, it wasn't an easy process that can take decades to complete.
"Some people are afraid to get legalized here, because they think that they might get deported or not. But it's not like that if you do the right thing, do the right paperwork, you can stay here and you can work here legally," says Mario Zuniga, who immigrated from Guatemala.
Illegal immigration is one of the hottest topics among legislators in the current General Assembly, which must deal with proposed bills that plan to limit the amount of services offered to illegal immigrants. However, these new U.S. citizens believe the government shouldn't take away all basic services from illegals.
"Especially with emergency or basic services, the government can provide for them, but the government needs to stimulate these people to try to go through the legal process and get all the services they can get from them. That's what I'm suggesting," says Mithat Ljubovic, who came from Bosnia.
And as far as local governments trying to crack down on illegal immigration, Ljubovic suggests illegals work to be legal.
"Become legal residents at least, if not citizens, because that's better for us Americans, because they pay taxes and do everything," says Ljubovic.
These 39 new citizens now have the ability to voice their opinions.
"I always wanted to vote and I never could vote because I wasn't a citizen, so now I can vote," says Zuniga.
At the ceremony, there were immigrants from five different continents, and 26 countries. Even though the process took more than a year, they all say they are glad they can vote, especially with the upcoming presidential race.