ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — For the first time this Independence Day, one group of naturalized citizens said the “Pledge of Allegiance” as Americans.

As Gigi Barnett explains, the journey to citizenship was a long time coming.

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Of all days to recite the “Pledge of Allegiance,” Independence Day is it. But for a group of immigrants, this holiday comes with official citizenship.

“It’s been a long road,” said Mulikat Olorunsola.

Olorunsola came to the U.S. from Nigeria five years ago with her husband. Taking the oath of citizenship this month is an early birthday present for her.

“Happy month for me,” she said.

This is the ninth year the Department of Immigration has hosted the ceremony at the historic William Paca House in Annapolis. It’s a milestone for the families, too.

“We want families to participate also. It’s their day also, not just the candidate,” said Gregory Collet, USCIS Baltimore director.

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Every year, immigration officials naturalize at least 20,000 new Americans in Maryland. No one particular country stands out.

“They’re settling all throughout the state, though, not in one particular area,” said Collet. “They’re between Baltimore and Washington. But they’re in Frederick, they’re in Baltimore City, they’re on the Eastern Shore. Our immigrants are everywhere.”

Man and Sze Yip live in College Park now. They left everything behind in Hong Kong.

“Give up your home country. Job. Sacrifice everything,” Sze Yip said.

But after this weekends ceremony, they will celebrate.

“Yeah. A big party. And then we are going to watch the fireworks,” Man Yip said.

This weekend’s Fourth of July naturalization ceremony is actually one of the smallest. Every day, Maryland immigration officials create at least 100 new Americans statewide.

More than 35 immigrants from nearly 30 countries took the oath of allegiance this weekend.

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