FORT SMITH (KFSM) -- The grand opening of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Offices office in Fort Smith was marked with a first-ever judicial naturalization ceremony.
Twelve immigrants became United States citizens Wednesday after U.S. District Court Chief Judge P.K. Holmes III administered the Oath of Allegiance in the new building.
"It's just exciting. There’s something I can't explain in my heart right now,” Joyce said. “It’s just pumping and burning…and I just want to go yell, ‘I’m a citizen!’”
Julie Joyce, who now lives in Fayetteville, decided to follow her heart to the U.S. after meeting an American in Colombia in 2005.
She said a man named Kirk was on a tour in Colombia, and one of her friends was his tour guide. The tour guide suggested the two of them meet, and she said it was love at first sight.
The two of them are now married with three children. She said Kirk visited her in Colombia eight times before they got married.
Julie said becoming an American citizen was difficult at times because she had to learn to speak English.
"Today I’m so happy and so proud that I didn't quit,” she said.
She was a lawyer in Barranquilla, Colombia, and said she has a plan to do the same in America.
"I actually want to be an immigration lawyer. So I am excited about that -- that's something that I'm looking forward to,” she said.
But before she heads back to law school, she said she's going to enjoy this milestone with her family.
"Our dreams come true,” Joyce said. “I never thought I would have a family, I never thought I would have three kids, and never thought to be a U.S. citizen! And I’m here and dreams come true -- they do."
The other immigrants came from the Czech Republic, Denmark, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, India, Kenya, Mauritius, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia and Vietnam.
The new facility on Kelley Highway replaces the location on Old Greenwood Road and is expected to serve more than 100 customers a day from western Arkansas and northern Louisiana.