NAPLES, Fla - More than 50 newly minted United States citizens were welcomed during a naturalization ceremony in Naples on Wednesday. But it was not a traditional immigration for some.
Of those in attendance, 19 were refugees from politically unstable, oppressive, or war torn countries.
Malbys Marquez came to the United States from Cuba.
"I'm so excited," she told WINK News after the ceremony. "This is very important in my life."
Most of Florida's refugees are from Cuba, though Wednesday's ceremony included several from Haiti and two from Zimbabwe. Refugees are granted admission into the country through the State Department, with Florida's Department of Children and Families assisting locally. Florida is the new home to more international refugees than any other state.
"It can be a real culture shock," DCF spokewoman Natalie Harrell told WINK News. "We work with them to become more comfortable as they transition into their new lives in the United States."
Federal programs and funding assist refugees in learning English and important job skills.
"It's a lot of work and a huge commitment to be able to stand up and say, 'I am willing and want to become a U.S. citizen,'" Harrell said.
"It's hard sometimes," Marquez recalled about her experience. "But it's possible... Never give up."