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“I Have Been Counting The Days On My Fingers”: 5,500 Expected To Be Sworn In As U.S. Citizens Throughout July 4-Themed Ceremonies

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More than 5,500 immigrants are ultimately expected to be sworn in U.S. citizens as part of Independence Day naturalization ceremonies that began shortly before the holiday weekend and will continue on through the end of this week, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced

500 people representing nearly 80 nations were welcomed as new U.S. citizens at one July 4 ceremony in Seattle, Washington. They included one Sudanese man whose path to naturalization was put on pause after the novel coronavirus pandemic temporarily ground paperwork to a halt. Adam Maxmoud finally got to be an American on paper over the July 4 holiday, taking on added importance, he said. 

“I have been counting the days on my fingers, counting the days to have this very special day,” he told King 5 News. “July 4th, Independence Day and citizenship. It is a very unique day. It is very special to all of us here.” Claire Han, originally from South Korea, also became a new U.S. citizen that day. “It is a very unforgettable moment for me, especially on July 4th,” Han said in the report. “I am so excited, and I am very honored to be a U.S. Citizen.”

“Honored to celebrate #IndependenceDay welcoming 500 new American citizens from 80 different countries,” Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell tweeted. “Immigrants and refugees make us a stronger city – better equipped to solve problems, grow, and learn from one another. This is what America – and #OneSeattle – look like.”

Nearly 80 immigrants representing more than 30 nations were welcomed as new U.S. citizens in a ceremony aboard the naval ship U.S.S. Hornet in Alameda, California. NBC Bay Area reported that before District Judge James Donato administered the Oath of Allegiance to the soon-to-be U.S. citizens, he “shared his own family’s story of immigrating from Sicily. He asked the soon-to-be American citizens to tell their own stories often and proudly.”

“I’m asking you to do this because, on occasion, some of our fellow citizens forget that this country was built by immigrants,” Judge Donato said. “They forget that they too, at some point in their family, came from somewhere else.” This includes lawmakers who push restrictionist policies that likely would’ve blocked their own ancestors from this country.

Sohaib Ibrahimi, a spectator at Alameda’s popular July 4 parade, told KTVU that he and his family fled Afghanistan six years ago and have recently become U.S. citizens. “We came here because we wanted a better life,” Ibrahimi said. “It’s been really good. I like it.” New U.S citizens were also naturalized in ceremonies in Michigan, New York, and the Golden Spike national historical park in Utah.

Detroit, Michigan:

Golden Spike National Historical Park, Utah:

Los Angeles, California:

Fifty active U.S. military service members were sworn in as U.S. citizens in a ceremony at the U.S.S. Midway Museum in San Diego, California, continuing a long tradition of immigrants who have put their lives on the line in the service of their new country. “Immigrants have served in and fought for the U.S. military since the birth of the nation—from the Revolutionary War to the present,” the Center for American Progress said in 2013. 

Not only do immigrants bring special skills, such as language competencies, they serve with distinction, CAP said, noting that “20 percent of all Medal of Honor recipients were born abroad.”

U.S. military service members who took the Oath of Allegiance during the July 4th holiday  included Nepali immigrant Angeli Regmi. “I came from a small country and want to achieve a lot of things, like you become the citizen of the United States, the greatest country in the world, and a lot of doors open for you to do a lot of opportunities,” Regmi told Times of San Diego. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), a guest at the ceremony, told service members our nation was safer because of them. “You enrich our communities, our neighborhoods and our workplaces,” Rep. Schiff said in the report.

New York City, New York:

In a special ceremony at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., more than a dozen children ranging in age from 13-18 years old were sworn in as new Americans:

Our friend and immigrant rights leader Gaby Pacheco – one of the most important Dreamer activists for more than a decade – also recently became a U.S. citizen, holding a party on July 4 to celebrate this momentous win in her decades-long fight. “It was very difficult the journey to get here,” she told NBC Miami. “It was hard, but I was able to do it because of the support of my community. I had incredible attorneys and friends and people that guided me.” 

Pacheco, who came to the U.S. from Ecuador at the age of eight, has been a fearless champion on immigration, including undertaking a 1,500 mile walk from Miami to Washington, D.C. in 2010. “Since the walk I have carried the stories and dreams of thousands of people we met along the way,” she said in Senate hearing remarks in support of 2013’s comprehensive immigration reform bill. “People working in our fields, chicken farms, day laborer centers, homes as domestic workers, print as journalists, small businesses as owners, and health clinics as doctors. These people are mothers, fathers, children, and neighbors.”

Gaby was finally, and deservedly, recognized as an American on paper last month. “Pacheco and her family faced deportation at one point, but she told NBC6 she is glad this moment has finally come,” the report said. “This is also a lesson to those that are lawmakers that don’t necessarily understand the immigrants,” Pacheco said. “Immigrants do belong here.”

“Promoting citizenship and making the naturalization process accessible to all who are eligible are a beautiful extension of many ideals that birthed our nation 247 years ago,” USCIS Director Ur Jaddou said in a statement. “This holiday is always a special opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to the USCIS mission and to welcome new citizens as they begin their American journey.” 

The Biden administration in 2021 announced a whole-of-government effort to encourage eligible immigrants to naturalize. Combined with efforts by advocacy organizations, it appears to have successful results, with the 2022 fiscal year seeing the highest naturalization rate in more than a decade. “In fiscal year (FY) 2022, USCIS welcomed 974,000 new U.S. citizens,” the agency said. “So far in FY 2023, USCIS has welcomed 588,900 new U.S. citizens as of June 7 and made significant progress in reducing our naturalization pending queues.”

After four years of President Trump significantly reducing legal immigration, creating lengthy backlogs for immigration services, including citizenship, and erecting new barriers to citizenship, it is good news that this nation is recovering. And a nice reminder on our national birthday of what America is (supposed to be) all about.