Men and women from more than two dozen nations around the globe joined together to pledge allegiance to the American flag in Rome on Friday as they completed long journeys to U.S. citizenship.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Walter E. Johnson administered the oath of citizenship to 58 individuals during the ceremony at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

Francisco Briceno from Venezuela has been in the U.S. for 16 years.

“There was a political incident between a bad fellow called Hugo Chavez that made me have my differences and I decided to go for a better path in life,” Briceno said following the ceremony.

Briceno is a professional engineer in the petroleum industry. He said he set the goal of becoming a U.S. citizen on the day he left Venezuela.

Carlo Valentino Pulido, from Peru, has been in the U.S. for 18 years.

“I’m happy for this grand day. I like the people in this country and my love is for this country,” Pulido said. He has been employed at a Costco store in the Sugar Hill area for the past 14 years.

“You’ve worked hard to get to this place, this event and this honor of achieving citizenship, however becoming a citizen is not the end of journey as an American. It’s the beginning,” Judge Johnson said in brief remarks to the new citizens. “I encourage you to exercise the constitutional rights about which you have studied in preparing for this day.”

Judge Johnson said citizenship comes with responsibilities, including voting, volunteering their time, giving money to worthy causes and speaking out against injustice.

“America is not a great country because of its government, its military or its wealth. America is a great nation because of its people,” Johnson said. “Our Constitution has protected our rights and made this land the exception to the circumstances that unfortunately exist in many parts of the world where government has trampled the rights of its citizens.”

Venkat Gogineni, from India, is an information technology worker in Atlanta. He has lived in the U.S. for 20 years.

“I came here for work,” Gogineni said. He said it has taken him 10-12 years to complete all of the requirements to become a citizen.

While the newest U.S. citizens come from more than two dozen countries, South Korea, India, Vietnam and Mexico led the way with five or more from each of those countries.

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