“I’m joyful!” a new U.S. citizen Debora Abaya said.

Those were the feelings of many in attendance today. Thirty-nine newly naturalized U.S. citizens were presented with their certificate of naturalization in front of their family and friends alongside 17th District of Illinois Congressman Eric Sorensen.

“I’m grateful that I have a family and friends that back me, especially my dear husband that is always by my side,” Abaya said. “I’m so blessed to have family and friends I’m not alone in this country, so I’m grateful.

Some of the people being naturalized were also excited about the opportunities up ahead.

“I’ll be grateful to be a citizen of the United States, even though I came from Togo,” Abaya said. “It doesn’t mean I forgot my country, Togo. No, I just wanted to be a part of the United States country. A citizen of the United States, since I’m working here. I get my paycheck from this country, I enjoy it so why not be a citizen.”

Chief U.S. District Judge Sara Darrow has overseen 3 to 4 naturalization ceremonies a year for over the past 12 years, and she says each time brings a feeling of jubilation.

“It’s really hard to put into words because it’s just a mixture of emotions that I see on everyone’s faces,” Darrow said. “No matter what path brought folks here, some of it was hardships, others were opportunities, sometimes a mixture of both. It’s been a journey and you can see that written on their faces.”

This journey was well worth the wait, especially for one new U.S. citizen, Fadhil Aljanabi.

“I’m from Iraq,” Aljanabi said. “I am a citizen now of the United States. I’d been waiting for a long time, but my dreams have come true now. I’m happy and proud to be an American citizen. This is a beautiful country, you can do whatever you want freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom for everything.”