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More Than 38,000 People Will Become US Citizens During This Constitution Week

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Since yesterday, hundreds of people have been sworn in as United States citizens to mark the launch of Constitution Week, which will be recognized this year from September 16-23.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) expects more than 38,000 people to be sworn in as Americans during 240 naturalization ceremonies throughout the week, which also coincides with the launch of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Additionally, USCIS has partnered with the National Park Service (NPS) “to hold more than 100 naturalization ceremonies in national parks and historic sites this year as a part of NPS’ centennial celebration,” including a ceremony today at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC.

Other sites include the Great Smoky Mountains, Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon. The ceremony that took place in the Smoky Mountains yesterday was the first to be conducted by a federal judge in a national park, according to WBIR.

“I was born in the Dominican Republic. I moved here when I was around nine-years-old. I live in Powell, Tennessee, and went to Powell High School, so this is where I live,” said Jwaly Morillo, who was sworn in as a citizen during the Smoky Mountains ceremony.

In another ceremony yesterday in southern Ohio, 86 people were sworn in as citizens.

“Our kids are already citizens. We lived in this country for a long time. I always felt left out,” said Christina Koenig, who was sworn in during the ceremony. “I am now finally a part of you.

In a moving New York Times opinion piece, Judge Denny Chin reflects on years of swearing in new Americans as United States citizens:

My parents spoke little English. My father worked as a cook in Chinese restaurants and my mother as a seamstress in garment factories. They understood the importance of education, and thus my siblings and I worked hard in school. My parents also appreciated the importance of citizenship, and they became naturalized in 1965. And because I was only 11 years old that year, I became an American citizen as well, by operation of law.

I was appointed a federal trial judge in 1994 and served in that capacity until I was elevated to the federal appellate court in 2010. I now sit in the magnificent Thurgood Marshall United States Court House in Lower Manhattan, in chambers once occupied by Justice Marshall himself when he was a judge on our court in the 1960s. I know that none of this would have happened if my grandfather and parents had not worked so hard for so long, had they not become United States citizens.

My grandfather’s naturalization certificate hangs on the wall in my chambers. On the back, it states that he was sworn in as a new citizen in “open court,” in the very courthouse, I believe, where I sit now.

One of the things I have missed since becoming an appellate judge is the naturalization ceremony. When I served as a Federal District Court judge, I performed the naturalization ceremony regularly. I would naturalize some 200 immigrants at a time, from dozens of countries around the world. And when I performed that ceremony, I would take my grandfather’s naturalization certificate into the courtroom, and I would show it to the new citizens and tell them the story of my grandfather.

When the ceremony was over, I would shake the hand of each new citizen. I was most inspired by the elderly, some hobbling, some wheelchair-bound, who still appreciated the importance of becoming an American citizen.

On this Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, I will be thinking of my grandfather and of the many new citizens I was privileged to swear in over the years, and of the principles of liberty, justice and equality that have made our country so great.