National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America


Thousands to Become New American Citizens as Nation Marks Citizenship Day

September 17, 2008

Washington, DC – September 17 is Citizenship Day in the United States; a day to celebrate the Constitution and the meaning of U.S. citizenship.  Among the activities marking Citizenship Day this week are massive naturalization ceremonies at Fenway Park in Boston (Wednesday), a thousand-person ceremony (this past Monday) in Las Vegas, a 900-person swearing-in in Orlando (also Monday), and another 600-person ceremony in Denver today, among many others.  U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reports that 700,000 new Americans have been sworn in this year.  The following is a statement by Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum, a non-partisan, pro-immigrant advocacy group in Washington.

Hundreds of thousands of new American citizens joining our country this year is a sure sign that our nation is strong and immigration remains a defining part of the American character.  Embracing America, becoming a citizen, registering to vote, and voting are among the most telling indications that immigrants today are revitalizing our democracy, as they have done for more than two centuries.

This year, massive nationwide campaigns to help immigrants through the citizenship process and to register eligible citizens to vote will be reflected on Election Day.  At all levels of government, new voters, including immigrants and their adult children, will be decisive factors in choosing who will lead us in the coming years.

We don’t make it easy for new citizens.  We place so many barriers before immigrants, from lengthy bureaucratic backlogs to exorbitant fees to unrealistically restrictive legal immigration channels.  For example, a permanent resident (green card holder) hoping to bring her son legally from Mexico would have had to have applied for a visa in May 2001 to have a visa for him today, assuming he hadn’t turned 18 or gotten married in the meantime.  Another example is how many thousands of hopeful citizens who applied more than a year ago have been caught up in the citizenship backlog and will not be sworn in in time to vote this November. 

Nevertheless, raising your right hand and pledging “to support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic” is every bit as meaningful today as it was for my parents, who chose to make their lives in America having grown up in Pakistan.

We welcome our new neighbors, fellow citizens, and future leaders and pledge to them that we will continue to welcome immigrants who strengthen and revitalize our communities, families, and economy.  We also pledge to redouble our efforts to fix our dysfunctional legal immigration system and restore legality and orderliness to immigration, one of the most unique and powerful aspects of America’s continued strength and competitiveness.

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