Former Marlins player among dozens sworn in as US citizens

SOUTHWEST MIAMI-DADE, FLA. (WSVN) - Dozens in South Florida marked a milestone and finally got the chance to live the American dream, and for one man in particular, Friday’s ceremony was truly a home run.

There may not be anything necessarily special about March 10, 2017. Overall, it was an average South Florida morning, but in a room labeled “Ceremony Room,” in Southwest Miami-Dade, it was the most important morning of these people’s lives.

On Friday, they became American citizens.

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle shared her family’s experience with the new citizens. “My father fled from Cuba,” she said.

Sitting in the crowd was Yunel Escobar, third baseman for the Los Angeles Angels and, for about one month back in 2012, a Miami Marlin.

He no longer lives in South Florida, but Escobar still considers Miami home. “This is the biggest thing that ever happened to me, becoming a U.S. citizen,” he said through a translator.

His American story is emotional and frightening, but also hopeful. In 2004, as a young boy, he came to America in a raft as he fled from Cuba, a country where, he said, he can never return.

“I came in a raft and spent three days at sea [with] 36 people,” he said. “It’s a powerful experience to a lot of Cubans, Dominicans and Mexicans that cross the ocean.”

But now, more than a decade later, Escobar’s life is turning a new page.

He said becoming a U.S. citizen was a goal for which he worked very hard. “The process was a little bit difficult, because I had to learn a lot of things I didn’t know about this country,” he said. “Thank God I paid attention in all the classes, and I learned everything I needed to learn.”

Citizenship is something that, Escobar believes, everyone should have the right to achieve. “This has been a big step for me and for a lot of people who have been able to become American citizens,” he said.

Clutching a small U.S. flag, it was a surreal and emotional moment for Escobar, as he finally feels at home in a country for which he now pledges his allegiance.

English may not come easily for the 34-year-old, but he did have something to say in that language: “I love Miami. I feel good. I feel very happy, and [will] be loyal to the United States of America.”

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