TAMPA (FOX 13) - U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services naturalized 49 people Monday, including a 94-year-old man.
Robert Skalitzky is now a United States citizen. Originally from Austria, Skalitzky's family settled in Canada years ago then moved to Sarasota. He's the last in his family to finally get his U.S. citizenship.
"It took me a long time to get here," he said. "But, look at me. I'm surrounded by people who wanted to do exactly what I wanted to do. Be American."
People from 23 countries took the oath of allegiance Monday, pledging their loyalty to the U.S.
"It's amazing," said Arlete De Jesus, who is originally from Brazil. "It means it happened. It means I'm born again!"
Maria Chapa Lopez, the daughter of Mexican immigrants who is the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida, was the keynote speaker.
In the crowd of the dozens of new Americans was a new mother, too, wanting the best for her family. Each of the 49 were asked to stand when their country of origination was called.
They waved the American flag and cried. They sang along to ‘God Bless the U.S.A’ before receiving the document that officially grants them their U.S. citizenship.
"It's something that’s just too much, too much to tell anybody what it means. To be my age and then get into a new country and be a member of the country," offered Skalitzy, "I'm very happy."
For these new Americans, they see their U.S. citizenship as a privilege.
"It means freedom," said De Jesus. "It means I can vote!"
"It's just amazing to be free to do whatever you want to do in this country."