49 people become naturalized citizens during ceremony in Carbondale, IL

(Source: KFVS)
(Source: KFVS)

CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS) - Immigration's been a hot button issue in Washington DC, but on Thursday, it was a cause for celebration in the Heartland..

Not one, not two - but 49 immigrants from all over the world became naturalized US citizens in Carbondale, Illinois.

It was an emotional experience for Andrea Lebeau.

"A lot things happened today – I laughed, I cried. Very excited because I became an American citizen," said Lebeau.

Lebeau came from Hungary 11 years ago, but she says she's happy to now call Carbondale home.

"I just love Carbondale and the community and southern Illinois. I just feel like I'm home," said Lebeau.

Sarah Eastman came to the US from Kenya for her education at SIU. She eventually got married and started a family in Carbondale.

"Today me becoming a US citizen – that kind of unites our family and we can be together there's nothing that can really separate us," said Eastman.

Everyone here has their own reason for coming to the U.S. - family, education, better opportunities and even love.

Mounir Ichou, of Morocco, explains his reason for coming.

"In a nutshell, I met this beautiful, very understanding and supportive wife Lori," said Ichou.

"My beautiful daughter is here, so it's her father - he's an American. We met in Budapest, in Hungary. We fall in love and that's how we came originally first here," said Lebeau.

"It's a new beginning, it's like being born, just in a different way."

Even though the event was an official court proceeding, students and faculty at SIU were able to sit in and learn about the process of becoming a citizen in their country.

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