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SHREVEPORT, La. - Thursday was more than just fireworks and barbecue. Dozens of people became U.S. citizens in an annual naturalization ceremony.

This day changed the lives of people like Vilmarie Holley forever. She's one of the 34 people who, on Thursday, became a legal resident.

"One of the biggest moments in my life," Holley said. "I became a U.S. citizen today."

Holley moved to the U.S. from the Philippines. She says family is what brought her here and made her want to stay. And with it being on Independence Day, made it even more special.

"I'll never forget about it," said Holley. "Obviously, every July the 4th everyone in America celebrates. I'm going to celebrate. I'm going to remember, like I'm a part of that now."

Shahanawaz Uquali feels the same way. He and his wife are from Pakistan. He's been living in the U.S. since 2016 and on Thursday, he made it official.

"I'm really happy and really grateful to become a United States citizen today," said Uquali.

Uquali says his wife was also naturalized and she helped him along the way.

"She was a citizen and I came here as a spouse and the credit goes to her," Uquali said. "She told me everything - what the processes are and what I'm going through."

Eighteen different countries were represented during Thursday's ceremony.

Presiding judge Maury Hicks says this was a significant group of people and so was having the ceremony on this day.

"To commemorate the nation's independence and to commemorate the remarkable journeys that each person has taken to get here on July the 4th, it just matches up really well," Hicks said.

Now Holley and Uqali can accomplish their goals and live the American dream.

The new citizens had to pass a citizenship test to before receiving their certificate.

A total of 7,500 people were naturalized across the country this week.


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