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Fourth of July Citizenship Ceremonies Offer Vision of America at Its Best

 

In stark contrast to Trump’s spiteful view of New Americans

The Fourth of July is a celebration of our nation’s finest ideals and values, and, this year, the citizenship swearing-in ceremonies that took place throughout the land were especially poignant. In contrast to an Administration whose disdain of immigrants and refugees is now official policy, they remind us that our country is stronger when we embrace the energy, sacrifice and optimism of immigrants.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund:

As we celebrate our first July 4th under a Trump Presidency, the embrace of E Pluribus Unum, ‘Out of Many One’ feels like an act of resistance. In fact, it’s an embrace of who we aspire to be as a national community. Those becoming citizens this weekend are a source of inspiration for Americans  – new and old  – who are committed to advancing the unfinished American experiment to form a more perfect union. Instead of vilifying immigrants and refugees, we should be celebrating them.

Below, we highlight some of the incredible stories of naturalization and the continued fight to protect our immigrant neighbors, friends, and family. 

In her piece ‘I’m a Real American Now’: New Citizens Take the Oath, Trump in Mind”, Avantika Chilkoti of the New York Times  covers the naturalization ceremony in Mt. Vernon, VA, where the country gained 100 new Americans:

One hundred new citizens gathered with friends and family under the midday sun to enjoy the pageantry of the naturalization event. There were women in ethnic tunics and men in baseball caps, a woman in military garb and others in neat black head scarves, alongside Mr. Esmaeili, beaming in a dark blue suit and tie.

“I want to cry. I feel like, wow, my dream has come true and I’m a real American now,” said Mr. Esmaeili, 33, a software engineer in the capital, explaining that he feels more at home with the American way of life.

[…]

While those taking the oath celebrated their new citizenship, other migrants across the United States continue to struggle with the authorities.

As a custodian at Mount Vernon, Aracely Canales Ramos, 37, was busy on Tuesday keeping the restrooms, floors and windows sparkling. She moved to the United States from Honduras some 22 years ago and loves the festivities, fireworks and cake that come with the Fourth of July. But, she said, the process of gaining citizenship is difficult for hard-working outsiders like her.

“Maybe one day,” she said, grinning.

In a new piece for the New York Times, freshman Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) shares her personal immigration story in light of current events, including the Muslim and refugee ban and the Trump administration’s continued attack on immigrants:

When I finally walked into the cavernous hall at the old location of Immigration and Naturalization Services (now called United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) south of downtown Seattle, I was prepared for a simple transaction that would finally grant me citizenship and ensure that I would always be with my son. I did not anticipate the emotion that would come with the moment, or the way it would shape my future, and my understanding of this country.

There were hundreds of others at the ceremony from all over the world, and I could hear languages from every continent spoken. We all carried small American flags. Grandparents held children; moms and dads held hands. As we took the oath of citizenship, the solemnity of the moment spiked through me. Tears welled up and rolled down my cheeks as I took in the mixed emotions of renouncing any allegiance to my birth country of India where I had been a citizen for 35 years and embracing my new country.

America, a country that had embraced me as a 16-year-old who had come here by myself to study and build a life of better opportunity.

America, a country built on the idea of being a refuge for those in need, “the tired masses, yearning to breathe free.

America, a country that has always celebrated itself as a nation of immigrants.

In Austin, TX, crowds gathered for the naturalization ceremony and celebration of 1,200 immigrants. University of Texas President Gregory L. Fenves, the son of a Hungarian immigrant and ally to the immigrant community, delivered the keynote address. In a new piece for the Austin-American Statesman, he explains that while this cohort are ‘new citizens’ they are longtime Americans. Fenves reflects on his father’s immigration to the United States after fleeing Nazi Europe.

Approximately 1,200 people from 80 different countries recently took part in a large naturalization ceremony in Austin where I was asked to speak. The ceremony recognized the hard work, dedication and patriotism of the newest citizens of the United States of America.

I say newest citizens because, by definition, it was the first day that they officially enjoyed the rights and privileges of a U.S. citizen. But they’re not new here; they have been contributing to this nation for a very long time. Their American story did not start today. It started years ago, in small towns and cities around the world. It started with dreams, and those dreams were made real by sacrifice. Leaving one home for a new one. Leaving a familiar place for a place unknown.

[…]

My family’s story is not a new one in this country. In fact, this country is built on millions of similar stories. Everywhere we look, from Texas to New York to Washington to California, we see the work of immigrants. We see communities they’ve created and where they’ve contributed. We see buildings that they’ve built. We see businesses that they’ve started. We see faces, we see neighbors, we see friends. We see the United States of America reflected in the lives of those who chose to be a part of it. Who came here to contribute.

[…]

When I looked into the audience, I saw all of them, and I knew that even before they were officially U.S. citizens, we were already connected as Americans. All of our stories are entwined, because this country has always been built upon the courage of immigrants. That’s the legacy of America. That’s the history of America. That’s the future of America. And everyone is a part of it.

Alan Gomez of USA Today reports on a study from the National Academy of Sciences that documents the enormous contributions of immigrants to our nation:  

The report’s bottom line is that immigrants are a big plus for the U.S. over time. Yet Trump continues to focus on the negative aspects of immigration. His administration has increased arrests of undocumented immigrants, implemented a temporary travel ban on people from majority-Muslim countries and all refugees as an anti-terrorism move and pushes for a border wall with Mexico.

NBC News provides a new video titled, “Immigrant to American: What it Means to be a Citizen” to highlight the naturalization of hundreds of immigrants in New York yesterday.