Harry Castro, a teacher by trade, came to the United States from Peru on a short-term work permit in 2001, two days before the Sept. 11 attacks.
As the country reeled from tragedy, Castro, who applied six months at a time to stay in the country, feared a tightening of the borders would make it impossible to return. When his work visa expired, Castro remained here illegally.
For 12 years, he worked to obtain permanent residency with a fear of deportation looming. In December, the 57-year-old became a legal U.S. citizen.