CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Konstantin Korolev woke up Monday morning wondering if he'd still become an American citizen.
"I thought about calling, but then I realized if no one was there no one would answer the phone, so I decided to come anyway," the Russian native said.
Despite the government shutdown, 54 people became American citizens during a naturalization ceremony at the Robert C. Byrd U.S. District Courthouse in Charleston on Monday.
"They've each worked so hard, if the government would've deprived them of this moment it would've been a tragedy," U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin said after the ceremony.
Teresa Deppner, clerk of court for the Southern District of West Virginia, said last week that federal courts would be able to operate for at least 10 days if the government shuts down. After Oct. 15, the situation would be reassessed, she said.
Korolev left Russia to make a new life in the United States. He beamed during the ceremony, but admitted after he's worried about the shutdown.
"I wish an agreement would be made," he said.
The new citizens didn't let the shutdown interfere with their celebration of becoming American citizens. The group sang "Country Roads" and "The Star Spangled Banner" and posed for pictures with their certificate of citizenship.
West Virginia State University President Brian Hemphill told them that no matter what they've been through, "you're now an American" and "I'm proud to call you my fellow countrymen and women."
"This country has been through much worse," said Naveed Zaman, who came to the United States from Pakistan with his wife, Shaista Akram.
"It's still better here," she added. "I'm very happy to be here."
Goodwin reminded the group to register to vote. "That's one of the benefits of being an American citizen -- you get to pick your leaders. I'm sure right now you all feel like you'd like to pick some," he said, drawing laughter from the courtroom.