They raise families. They hold down jobs. They serve in the armed forces. They pay taxes.

They feel very much like Americans. But something has always been missing.

They noticed it on Election Day, when they stayed home while their neighbors went off to vote.

They noticed it when they traveled abroad, and stood on long lines because they didn't have U.S. passports.

After years of holding green cards as lawful permanent residents, these newest Americans say their decision to take the oath of citizenship is both pragmatic and patriotic.

Some of the newly minted Americans from Long Island, and some about to take the oath, say the path to citizenship is sometimes arduous, marked by confusing rules and bureaucracy. They take the oath amid continued national debate over immigration reform. But now, they are looking forward to celebrating the Fourth of July enjoying the rights most Americans take for granted.

"Today is a very important day for me," said U.S. Army Spc. Andre Kesler, 23, of Central Islip, at a naturalization service Friday on Ellis Island. "I have always wanted to become a citizen. Who doesn't want to be [a] U.S. citizen?"


On L.I., they embrace U.S. citizenship


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