CHICAGO (CBS) — Some 7,000 immigrants from around the globe become naturalized U.S. citizens each year.

It’s a journey that, for many, requires sacrifice and dedication. CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole was on hand Friday as Chicago welcomed some of the county’s newest citizens.

“Wow, I am so happy, I really can’t explain it. It’s a feeling — I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time,” said Oscar Escudero. 17 years to be exact. Previously, Escudero was in Mexico City, but had the desire to learn to speak English because, he says, “it opens a new world.”

Escudero left behind not only a “very tough life,” but also his parents. His American life consists of working as a tradesman, relaxing at Navy Pier, and taking part in Chicago festivities such as Lollapalooza.

“The first time I come here, I saw a beautiful city, and I think I fell I love with the city,” Escudero says.

He also fell in love with Berenice, and seven years ago, they married at City Hall.

“I love this county; this country gave me everything.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel was present at Escudero’s naturalization ceremony, and so was the Mexico City Mayor, Miguel Mancera.

“The power of America’s dream, held here in Chicago for your children, is alive and well,” Mayor Emanuel said. “Becoming a citizen of the U.S. does not mean giving up your past, it means freedom to start a new life in a country and a city that welcomes and embraces your heritage. In Chicago, we welcome new Americans and celebrate our diversity, as we are proud to do so today on Cinco de Mayo.”

The Naturalization Ceremony was conducted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Over the past decade, the U.S. welcomed about 6.5 million people as naturalized citizens. To gain citizenship, one must have knowledge of our government system, demonstrate English skills, and be of good moral character.

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