Ten years after entering the United States, Julie Aftab is finally an American citizen. Aftab came to the U.S. to receive burn treatments at the Shriners Hospital for Children in Houston after being attacked in her home country of Pakistan, the Houston Chronicle reports.
While working as a call operator at a store in the city of Faisalabad, Aftab was doused with battery acid by two men after refusing to denounce her Christian faith. She was left with bone-deep burns covering most of her upper body, according to the source.
Aftab has built a new life in Houston, Texas, and currently lives with her host parents Gloria and Lee Ervin. She endured dozens of surgeries to reconstruct her face. However, despite her challenges, Aftab also attended school in the U.S., and has earned an accounting degree from the University of Houston.
With legal aid, Aftab was granted political asylum, and began applying for permanent residency and naturalization, the source said.
On July 31, 2012, Aftab was sworn in as an American citizen with over 2,000 other people in Houston, Texas, including natives from 124 different countries. U.S. District Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt, who led the ceremony, asked her to deliver the keynote speech, the source reported.
“For many people, this is just a piece of paper. For me, this means a lot,” Aftab said in her remarks. “The paper means that I can see my family. That paper means that I have better opportunities. That paper means so many things,” reported Houston ABC News affiliate KTRK.
Julie Aftab hopes to be able to visit her family in Pakistan after receiving her U.S. passport.