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'It means everything' for woman brought to United States as a baby to become citizen

Posted at 6:31 PM, Feb 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-09 18:34:12-05

DELHI TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- Nathaly Cornejo was 7 months old when her parents emigrated from Venezuela to the United States. Decades later, having graduated from college and built a career in rehabilitating aging houses, she became an American citizen Friday at St. Dominic School.

"It means everything," she said. "It's something that I've felt and that I've grown up feeling, and this is just that final seal of approval to finally not just feel like an American but be one."

Even after a United States judge banged the gavel and made her citizenship official, Cornejo said she had trouble believing it.

Her parents started from the bottom in their new country, sacrificing their careers and finances for a chance at providing Cornejo and her brother with a future in the U.S.

"Every little success that I have probably feels a little bit different than to most people," she said. 

While Cornejo and her fellow new citizens celebrated, other first-generation immigrants across the country remained in a holding pattern.

"Dreamers" -- children whose parents brought them to the United States illegally before 2007 -- have been in limbo since President Donald Trump announced he would end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program that allowed them to receive a renewable two-year protection from deportation. 

The only difference between Cornejo and DACA recipients is that her parents arrived in the country legally.

Despite multiple showdowns on the floor of the House and Senate, the path forward for "Dreamers" -- and the question of whether they can ever become citizens like her -- is unclear.

"I understand the struggles that it takes to get to the path of citizenship," Cornejo said. "I think there needs to be an important verification and check so that the people that do come to the United States do want to be here are here because they've been working, they have a future and they are going to benefit the country. … (But) I do believe there should be a path for the children that came here somewhat without an option."