The Newest Americans
New world, new life for new U.S. citizens
"Just going to work we'd have cars following us for no reason shooting like in the air or shooting at the car," said Alea, who didn't want her last name used to protect relatives still in Iraq. "The driver had to escape, try to find a new route to go to work."
She wondered each day which co-worker she wouldn't see.
"People are missing; they're supposed to show up for work. They won't because they're on their way to work and they get kidnapped or killed," Alea said during an interview at the federal courtroom Friday.
"It means that I have the right to live as a human being," said Alea, who works as an emergency department technician at Concord Hospital while waiting to get her doctor's license.
"I can't believe that what happened in the past did actually happen. It's like surreal," Alea said of her life in Iraq. "I feel like I have a new life given to me, a new life, born again in a different place where it's safer. It was just a dream, a nightmare that I had, and I woke up from it."
U.S. Judge Paul Barbadoro welcomed the new citizens from 36 countries, hailing from Bolivia to Venezuela.
Gov. Maggie Hassan, who posed for pictures with the freshly minted U.S. citizens, told them that they can improve their new country.
Anwer Ismael and his wife, Hayat Wali, left Iraq in June 2008 for a place where they could make their own decisions.
Wali said she liked the fact that the state has a woman governor and an all-female congressional delegation.
Wali, who is an Arabic language interpreter like her husband, has applied to Southern New Hampshire University to pursue a master's degree in English as a second language.
"God brought these people here," Hedstrom said. "I thought this was a message."
The couple's new citizenship means their daughter and two sons, all born in Iraq, now are eligible for U.S. citizenship.
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