The 52 new Americans spoke one at a time.
They rose in a federal courtroom in Macon and said their names and told where they were from.
First a woman from Mexico, then a woman from Guatemala, a woman from India, a woman from Ghana, a man from China.
Xayasith Inthiraj, 38, from southeast Asia, stood 13th in line. She grinned when the microphone was handed to her at Tuesday’s naturalization ceremony.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
“My new name,” she said, beaming and trying not to cry, “is Samantha Inthiraj. I’m from Laos.”
Inthiraj, who came to the U.S. as a 2-year-old, grew up in Gwinnett County and later graduated from Georgia State University with a psychology degree.
Now she lives in rural Macon County.
“My husband wanted to buy a chicken farm,” Inthiraj said later.
She runs Sally’s, a nail salon in Americus.
“It’s the American dream,” she said.
As for her citizenship, Inthiraj said, “I’m just happy to finally do it. I don’t know what took me so long.”
U.S. District Judge Marc Treadwell, who was presiding, joked with those gathered that “in our court there’s only two times when everybody leaves happy. One is when we do weddings -- we hope everybody’s happy.”
The other time, he said, was after naturalization ceremonies.
“I know the path that has brought you to this courtroom has been long and arduous and sometimes dangerous,” Treadwell said. “I congratulate you.”
In a jury room afterward, there was cake and punch and pretzel sticks. A local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution gave out plastic baggies of patriotic pencils, key chains and red-white-and-blue peppermints.
Vijaya Vyas, 42, who came to the U.S. from India in 1995, said becoming a citizen “was great.”
She said her husband “was more excited than I was.”
Even so, they weren’t planning much of a celebration -- at least not until the weekend.
She and her husband, Manish, an Ohio State University grad, own the Quality Inn in Byron. Their two children have schoolwork and tests.
“Back to our usual life now,” Manish said.
To contact writer Joe Kovac Jr., call 744-4397.