News 12 at 11 o'clock / Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- It was a humbling day as News 12 watched nearly 20 people become American citizens. Besides finally calling this country their home, the newly-official Americans said their citizenship could not have been finalized at a more appropriate time and there's one thing they can't wait to do.
"Most importantly, I can vote and I've been looking forward to that for a very long time -- you can imagine 25 years, and more now, so I'm looking forward to being eligible and being able to vote in this presidential election that is coming up," said Nigerian native Emmanuel Enoghayin.
A ceremony that gives the phrase "proud to be an American" a whole new meaning.
"It is probably the happiest moment we have in federal court all year," said presiding Judge Randal Hall.
Emmanuel left his family and his home in Nigeria when he was only 27 years old.
When News 12 asked what brought him to the United States in the first place, Enoghayin replied, "That is the million-dollar question. In search of opportunities, in search of opportunities."
Now, at the age of 51, he has finally earned the right to call himself an American.
"This a treasure right here, it's going to be kept by itself, and I'm going to make sure it's well protected," he said as he cradled his certificate.
"These are new citizens who will, I think, be more than willing to participate, more than willing to vote, more than willing to go the extra mile to do what we all should be doing as citizens," Judge Hall said.
Even though the process of becoming a citizen took years, Emmanuel says it's like the old adage: "It's about quality, not quantity."
"They want to make sure that the right people are given the opportunity to become citizens of this country," he said.
"I think every native born American citizen should attend one naturalization ceremony just to see what a gift we've all been given," Hall said.
A gift now earned -- and probably framed -- for the rest of Emmanuel's life.
Thirteen different countries were represented at Tuesday's ceremony, including Bangladesh, Dominican Republic, Italy, France, Germany, India, Jamaica, Malawi, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia and Vietnam.
Right outside the courtroom, everyone was given the chance to register to vote.