BOISE — While the controversy over illegal immigration dominates headlines, it's easy to forget that every day thousands of legal immigrants are gaining their U.S. citizenship in a process that's been celebrated as part of our national identity for decades.
Some 730,000 will become U.S. citizens this year, and here at KTVB, one of our fellow employees is among them.
Ali Al Saedi is a video editor and works hard on our news shows every day. But right now he's on a three-day weekend that started Thursday with the realization of a dream, years in the making.
"This is a very special moment for me and my family," said Ali.
Ali Al Saedi and his wife and 47 others in this room have been on a long journey.
"Who's here from Afghanistan? Sudan? Colombia? Iraq?"
From countries all over the world, leading to this day and a solemn oath.
With right hands raised, this naturalization ceremony makes it official, they are becoming our country's newest citizens.
"Today I get my home, my new home and that means safety, good future for my kids,” said Ali. “I didn't get like this event in my life. I feel like I'm born again."
A rebirth that started some 15 years ago as the war in Iraq raged. Ali worked as a videographer with the Associated Press often collaborating with American and other international news organizations covering the war, a fact that led to persecution and serious threats to his life and the well-being of his family. They sought refugee status in the U.S. And finally, in 2012, a year after the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, the Al Saedi's were allowed to come to America.
"Five years ago when I came here I didn't expect to continue to live here,” said Ali. “Twas a different culture, different language, different system, different institution, different law, and I think maybe I'm lost here, but after five years I'm here, I'm citizen."
"Congratulations guys, these are your new U.S. citizens right here. Wave those flags!"
“I want to thank everyone who helps us,” said Ali. “I'm part of this community. I'm part of this home. I'm very, very, very happy to be this. This is my new life and I hope I will do the best things for my new home."
After arriving in Boise, Ali worked for more than two years as a detail technician for a local car dealership. In 2015, he began an internship with Idaho Public Television, and the next year he joined us here at KTVB as a video editor.