Stephen Nessen, Reporter, WNYC News
Stephen Nessen reports for the WNYC Newsroom and can often be heard live on Morning Edition.
A day after a bipartisan group of Senators introduced a sweeping immigration bill in Washington, a group of 50 who have gone through the system completed the final step to becoming American citizens in New York City.
Immaculee Illbagiza, 42, survived the 1994 Rwandan genocide and moved to New York City, where it took 14 years for her to become an American citizen. At a naturalization ceremony in Lower Manhattan, she recited the pledge of allegiance, and received an immigration certificate.
“Given Citizenship, it just makes me feel like I'm given a home, like I'm born again,” she said. “It’s almost like the genocide is over, you're free, accepted. It's overwhelming. Beautiful.”
Hearings on the bill – which includes a 13-year path to citizenship - will be held by the Senate Judiciary committee on Friday.
Illbagiza, who said she survived the genocide by hiding in a bathroom with seven others, has a message for Americans waiting for citizenship: “Don't let it crush you. Don't let it lose your hope.”