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In Philadelphia, US Citizens Sworn In on World Refugee Day

By Steve Tawa

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Nearly 50 people from 28 countries all raised their hands today in Philadelphia for an oath of allegiance to the United States, becoming America's newest citizens.

It happened during a World Refugee Day naturalization ceremony at the National Museum of American Jewish History, on Independence Mall.

From Albania to Zambia, the citizenship candidates heard from President Obama in a videotaped welcome.

"Today marks a special day in your life," the president told them.  "You've traveled a long path to get here.  Together, we are a nation united not by any one culture or ethnicity or ideology, but by the principles of opportunity, equality, and liberty that are enshrined in our founding documents."

They also heard country music artist Lee Greenwood belt out "God Bless the USA" during a video montage of what it means to be an American.

Then, they recited the Naturalization Oath of Allegiance.

Abbas Khalaf, a native of Iraq (center of photo, wearing necktie), had a dramatic journey to resettle in the United States, finding his way to Northampton, Pa.

He came here as an Iraqi refugee, a Sunni Muslim from Baghdad.

"When I arrived here, I have no English, in 2010," he recalled.  He was eventually reunited with his wife and three children in 2013.  Now, all of them are pursuing the American dream.

"It is my life achievement," Khalaf said, following today's ceremony.  "I have been waiting for that for too long."

So what does it mean for him to be a US citizen?

"The freedom.  The happiness.  I have no word to really say what it means."

Khalaf is now working with Liberty Lutheran, an Ambler, Pa.-based nonprofit organization, as a refugee resettlement case manager.

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