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50 new citizens celebrated at USS Little Rock

Newest U.S. citizens in WNY come from 23 countries
Posted at 8:48 PM, Jun 30, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-30 20:48:12-04

Standing on the USS Little Rock on a sunny Thursday morning, fifty Western New Yorkers pledged their allegiance to the American flag.

The naturalization ceremony was held in honor of Independence Day, as the U.S. marks the 240th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. 

"I am so happy to be American. It's my dream," new citizen Muhammad Aluess said after the ceremony.

Presiding over the event was U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara.

The new citizens come from twenty-three countries, including Bangladesh, Iraq, Sudan and Russia.

"This is a country of opportunity, a country of freedom, a country of cool people," Elena Helms said.

Helms, a Russian native, married an American man from Niagara Falls after moving to Western New York years ago in search of her American dream.

"It's a melting pot like you will never see anywhere else. So, to be a part of it, I can't even describe [my happiness] to you," Helms said.

7 Eyewitness News Anchor Ashley Rowe addressed the new citizens in a key note speech.  

More than 7,000 new U.S. citizens will be welcomed in one of nearly 100 naturalization ceremonies across the country.