“I’m free now!” Woman battling deportation for more than a decade finally becomes a U.S. citizen

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MILWAUKEE -- People from close to 40 countries took an oath to become American citizens Thursday, May 28th in Milwaukee. Among them, a very proud woman who once fled the Congo, and found for more than 10 years for this day.

Regina Bakala stands among 69 strangers about to take a giant step together -- they are about to become American citizens.

"I feel a little sad in my heart because I am giving up my citizenship to the Congo," said Regina.

Regina knows more than anything it's the right step to take.

"I'm going to keep all my Congolese culture. I'm going to keep everything," said Regina.

She also plans on keeping everything that brought her here, including a 10-year struggle -- and near deportation that would mean almost certain death.

"I just want to thank everybody who prayed for me. Everybody who helped me get through all this. I thank them," Regina said.

Among them, a woman still by her side as she holds her new certificate proudly -- sister Josephe Marie Flynn.

"She did a lot for me. She did a lot. God used her to help me," said Regina.

There are still a lot of emotions Regina was feeling as she walked down the courthouse steps but the one word she uses to describe it all is free.

"I'm free now! Before in Congo, I didn't have that freedom! I didn't have that free speech but now I'm free," Regina said.

And that freedom is a gift not only for her but her whole family.

"I can see my kids too now they are very happy. They know now that mommy is safe," said Regina.

While this is the end of a very long journey for Regina, it really is the beginning of another. She says with her new citizenship she's going back to the Congo to be able to help other women.

She feels safe, now that she will be able to come back to her new country.