As 85 new Americans become citizens, whispers of progress on immigration reform
New United States citizens take an oath during a naturalization ceremony Friday in U.S. District Court in downtown Oklahoma City.
"That I will support and defend the constitution and laws of the United States of America," they said together.And with the wave of a flag, 85 smiling new Americans join the ranks in Oklahoma. They arrived representing 29 countries and left with just one.
Some already work for the legal system, like RockefellerCooper who left Liberia with his family to avoid the conflict there.
"I'm feeling extra great and very, very happy," he said, beaming with his certificate of naturalization.
Three in the group serve in the U.S. military.
"It means a lot," said Leah Kim, who is stationed at Tinker Air Force Base, "I'm so happy I have this."
All of them have stories of the years it took to get here. For Carmen Magana from El Salvador that number is 21. And at times she says it was very stressful.
"We have to cook, we have to clean and still we're working to study (for the naturalization exam)," she explained.
"It's really hard to come to America with a green card," Kim recalled.
Washington is currently sending mixed signals on an easier path to citizenship. That's one of the major aspects of the immigration reform the President is pushing for, but Republicans have notably different immigration priorities.
"There's been widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws," said Speaker of the House John Boehner earlier this month, "and it's gonna be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes."
But this week there are whispers of progress after a private meeting between Boehner and the President. Boehner told reporters that they had a "healthy" discussion about the topic.
"There is an absolute need to do it, there is an overwhelming case behind the need to do it," said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, "and that Republicans should act as soon as possible to get it done."
The newest Americans say they hope lawmakers give more people the chance to do what they did Friday morning: become American citizens.
"If they need to be reformed, reform them. But give them the opportunity," said Cooper, "here the sky is the limit."
In Washington, a big divide is over "amnesty" - whether the U.S. should allow illegal immigrants to gain citizenship. Many conservatives are also calling for stricter border control.
Lawmakers on both sides are promoting opportunities for children who entered the country illegally with their parents, though notable descention on that idea comes from members of the Tea Party.