Lehigh Valley

Two Lehigh Valley residents share their citizenship stories this July 4th

Two Lehigh Valley residents share their citizenship stories this July 4th

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Scores of new immigrants have made the Lehigh Valley their home. This Fourth of July, we wanted to introduce you to someone who just became a citizen and someone who hopes to become one soon.

Saleh Ibrahim:

It may not be your idea of the American Dream, but for Saleh Ibrahim, a tiny apartment in Allentown is heaven.

"I like -- that's good, very nice," he said in broken English. "I like that."

Ibrahim made incredible sacrifices to come here. He escaped from Eritrea, a North African nation ruled by an oppressive dictator accused just this week of torture. It's a government so oppressive, Ibrahim cannot even reach his family by Skype or social media. Both are banned there.

"There's no safety," he said, "because they're fighting Ethiopia, with Djibouti, with Yemen, especially."

This July Fourth, Ibrahim has a reason to celebrate though. Just days ago, his wife and kids finally arrived here. He had seen none of them in four years.

Reporter: "That's the sacrifice you made to come to the United States."
Ibrahim: "Yeah."
Reporter: "Was it worth it?"
Ibrahim: "Yeah."

With his kids now here, Ibrahim hopes to become a U.S. citizen next year and finally celebrate the Fourth of July truly as an American.

Maria Hinds:

It may just be a sheet of paper, but for Maria Hinds, her citizenship certificate means freedom.

"It's my first Fourth of July as a citizen," she said. "A United States citizen."

Hinds just earned her citizenship and American passport five months ago.

"I did cry," she said. "It was, like, so overwhelming. I was like, 'Oh my God.'"

Hinds came here in 2002, giving up a career as a doctor in the Dominican Republic. Two of her kids and her entire extended family are still there. She hasn't seen many of them in two years.

Instead, Hinds met her husband and settled in Allentown. This Fourth of July, her first as an American citizen, is low-key. While she's happy to finally be an American, Hinds said it's tough letting go of your homeland.

"I do love this country a lot. Otherwise, I wouldn't become an American," she said. "But still, you don't stop loving your parents because you have a stepfather, you know? So I still love my country."

In the end, like Ibrahim, she believes the tremendous sacrifices she made were worth it.

"This is a part of my American dream."

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