Magnus Duruji, a 52-year-old Nigerian chef, finally emerged victorious after fighting deportation orders and facing arrests for decades in the United States. He eventually received a green card to stay in the country.
“In America, you don’t give up,” Duruji said on Wednesday when he stood up before a U.S. District Courtroom in Columbus, Ohio with 50 other petitioners from 27 countries ready to take the oath to become a naturalized citizen.
Standing before Magistrate Judge Norah McCann King, Duruji introduced himself thus: “I am Magnus Odunze Duruji. I am glad and proud to be an American.”
The journey has been long and hard.
Duruji, who came to the United States from Nigeria in 1982 to attend college, has since earned degree, married a U.S. citizen, become a father, worked for a few restaurants and started and closed a couple eateries of his own.
He had applied for citizenship in 1997 when immigration authorities found a 13-year-old deportation order. He was arrested and detained in a Dayton prison for four months.
Following a review of his case, Duruji became a permanent legal resident in 2001.
It was the start of his American dream, but life for the Duruji was not without its nightmares.
He rental properties were foreclosed on and he was diagnosed with colon cancer, which he fought and beat, while he struggled to overcome the deportation order.
He lost three restaurants, saying “I got overwhelmed”.
One of his four children died in 2008 after E. coli poisoning went untreated and caused internal bleeding; two years later Duruji applied for citizenship again.
Surrounded by friends and loved ones, Duruji became a citizen on Wednesday.
Moving forward, he says he’d like to take on government work, adding that he’d have an interesting take on immigration policy.
Yesterday morning, some people who have been with him from the beginning showed up to support him. His wife, Christina Duruji, was there.
“It’s an emotional day,” she said.