Hakim Benmoussa of Scottsdale fulfilled his dream Sunday to become a United States citizen.
Benmoussa came to the states 10 years ago from Morocco "to make something" of himself.
"As long as you abide by the rules and work hard, I think you can accomplish a lot (in the United States)," said Benmoussa, 30. "I think America was born in me. It's a matter of pride. This is the greatest country in the world."
Benmoussa joined close to 300 others on Independence Day at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix to become U.S. citizens.
Many wanted to become U.S. citizens to vote, work for the government and travel with a passport instead of a green card.
The new citizens waved American flags, sang "America, the Beautiful" and recited the Pledge of Allegiance as family members took pictures and videotaped the event.
U.S. District Court Judge David Campbell gave the order of admissions to citizenship, while Betsy Tait, deputy clerk with the court, read the oath of allegiance the immigrants had to repeat.
People wanting to become U.S. citizens undergo background checks and are interviewed to ensure they are of "good moral character." Most also need to read, write and speak English unless exempt by law, which includes certain medical disabilities and age restrictions, said Al Gallmann, acting district director of Citizenship and Immigration Services. They also must know basic U.S. history and government information.
Ana Mendez of Chandler came to the states from Sonora, Mexico, 15 years ago. She wanted to become a citizen because she wanted more stability for her three children.
"I have no plans to go back (to Mexico)," said Mendez, 30, a collections representative. "This country has given me a lot."