"That Was Me": New Citizens Sympathize With Immigrants Crossing Border

More than 4,300 people became naturalized citizens on Friday. Some said the immigration crisis is a tricky situation

By Ted Chen and Jeanne Kuang
|  Saturday, Jul 12, 2014  |  Updated 6:56 AM EDT
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Among the more than 4,000 people who were sworn in as naturalized American citizens on Friday were several who told NBC4 they can identify with the immigrants caught up in the border crisis. Ted Chen reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Friday, July 11, 2014.

Ted Chen/Bobbie Eng

Among the more than 4,000 people who were sworn in as naturalized American citizens on Friday were several who told NBC4 they can identify with the immigrants caught up in the border crisis. Ted Chen reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Friday, July 11, 2014.

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As he raised his right hand to be sworn in as an American citizen, Will Garcia remembered that he was once one of the children fleeing across the border.

Garcia was 3 years old when his mother sought political asylum in the U.S. from Guatemala. He said she is upset seeing how thousands of Central American children looking for the same thing have found themselves at the center of a national controversy on immigration.

"She cries every night when she sees the news," Garcia said. "She puts herself in that position and says, 'You know what, that was me. I did that.'"

Garcia joined more than 4,300 people who became naturalized citizens in a Los Angeles ceremony on Friday. The ongoing border crisis drew mixed emotions from those who pursued the legal immigration process.

Melissa Arce drove to LA from her home in Murrieta to become a citizen. She said she understands why so many of her neighbors were unhappy with the immigrants who were bused into in their town earlier in July, but she is also sympathetic to the immigrants fleeing violence in their home countries.

"They're seeking asylum. They're seeking a safer environment, so it's a life-or-death situation," Arce said.

For Liz Molina, who is also from Guatemala, the situation is tricky. Molina came to the U.S. with her husband 20 years ago, with her two children joining them later.

"It's really hard because I have kids, you know," she said. "When I came here I left my kids with my mom for a year."

Garcia said with the immigration crisis, things aren't clear-cut.

"Some people, when they are in dire situations, they make difficult decisions," he said.

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