Eight immigrants realized a lifelong dream in northwest Portland Wednesday and became United States citizens during a naturalization ceremony held in honor of World Refugee Day.

The immigrants were born in different places from around the globe, including Central America.

“My mom crossed the border illegally when I was two years old,” Roberto Roldan Mendoza, now 32, said. “She was fleeing the civil war in El Salvador.”

Mendoza credits his mother’s strength and resolve–and eight years of military service–for making the moment possible Wednesday.

“There’s just something in your heart to serve a country that has given you an opportunity to make a better life for yourself,” Mendoza said.

Mendoza now works as a full-time Systems Analyst for a local transportation company. He says his family fully realizes just how fortunate they are.

‘My dad recently went to El Salvador,” Mendoza said. “…He says it’s sad the type of country it has become. The problem with MS-13 has just gotten really, really bad there.”

Mendoza says he appreciates the efforts of Americans working to keep the border safe and says he feels deeply for those desperately searching for safety.

“People don’t know people’s hearts and intentions,” Mendoza said. “For the majority of people, I know, they’re here for the right reasons. They’re here to make a better life for themselves and their kids.”

Above all, however, Mendoza says he’s grateful for the opportunity to pledge his allegiance to the country he loves.

“I am living the dream,” Mendoza said. “I am the dream. My mom sees the dream in me, and in my siblings … it’s an amazing story.”

A story Mendoza says he will never take for granted.

Copyright 2018 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

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