161 gain U.S. citizenship in Knoxville

161 gain U.S. citizenship in Knoxville

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Caleb Ilesanmi is now a U.S. citizen, and for the first time, he, his wife and their son can call themselves an American family. Caleb Ilesanmi is now a U.S. citizen, and for the first time, he, his wife and their son can call themselves an American family.
The U.S. District Court granted American citizenship to 161 people in a naturalization ceremony in the City-County Building. The U.S. District Court granted American citizenship to 161 people in a naturalization ceremony in the City-County Building.
The application process, which includes passing a civics test, can take as long as six months. Nahide Ocak, a new U.S. citizen, says it's well worth the wait. The application process, which includes passing a civics test, can take as long as six months. Nahide Ocak, a new U.S. citizen, says it's well worth the wait.

By MIKE KRAFCIK
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - It was a dream come true for dozens of Knox County residents Friday. The U.S. District Court granted American citizenship to 161 people in a naturalization ceremony in the City-County Building.  

It was the end of a long road, but also the start of a new chapter in their lives.  

For Caleb Ilesanmi, Friday's naturalization ceremony marks the beginning of a new journey. The Nigerian native moved to Chattanooga in 2007 to attend graduate school and to be with his wife, also a Nigerian native.

Caleb is now a U.S. citizen, and for the first time, he, his wife and their son can call themselves an American family.

"Coming from my background, I know what people would do to be in my position today. It's a privilege and I'm honored to be a U.S. citizen," said Ilesanmi.

He and 160 others swore an oath of allegiance to the United States with immigrants not just from Knoxville. Some were from as far as Johnson City and Chattanooga. 

"These people want to become a part of his history, be a part of the United States.  They've spend their time getting to the United States and they want to be a part of that, in politics and all of those things," said Ella Ward with Immigration Services.

It was a special day for not just the citizens, but family and friends who came in support.

"I have two friends that are citizens now. One from Japan and one from Eastern Europe. And I know they had to spend a lot of time doing what they had to do  to get in front of this room and stand up in front of this people," said Knoxville resident Stephen Bradley.  

The application process, which includes passing a civics test, can take as long as six months. Nahide Ocak, a new U.S. citizen, says it's well worth the wait.

Ocak, a Turkish native, has lived in Knoxville for 16 years on a work visa.  

She says she travels back to Turkey to see most of her family, but says there is only one place she wants to be.  

"I'm so excited, I love America," Ocak said.  

Victor Ashe, former Knoxville Mayor and U.S. Ambassador to Poland, spoke to the new citizens.   There were six applicants who didn't show up for the ceremony.

Naturalization ceremonies are frequently held in the City-County Building, because the ceremonial courtroom of the Howard H. Baker Jr. U.S. Courthouse is not large enough to accommodate the large number of applicants, their families and the public.

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