The Promise of America: Welcoming Our Newest Citizens

This week more than 7,800 candidates will become citizens at more than 100 ceremonies across the country and around the world. Obama Administration officials participated in ceremonies which were part of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ annual celebration of Independence Day. 

On July 4, to celebrate our nation’s birth, White House Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough, gave remarks at a special ceremony at George Washington’s Mt. Vernon where 101 new citizens recited the Oath of Allegiance and became American citizens. Mt. Vernon is one of the prominent landmarks to host naturalization ceremonies this year in honor of Independence Day.

During the ceremony, Mr. McDonough discussed the ways immigrants have always contributed to the success of our economy:

“Throughout our history, immigrants have enriched our nation. From Albert Einstein who brought us the theory of relativity to Andrew Carnegie who led the American expansion in steel. From Madeline Albright our former Secretary of State to Jerry Yang who founded Yahoo!. America has benefited immensely from the contributions and talents of these and millions of other immigrants.”

On July 3, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew delivered remarks at a naturalization ceremony at the Department of Treasury to honor a group of people who took the Oath of Citizenship.

During the ceremony, Secretary Lew shared his family’s immigrant story:

“These naturalization ceremonies are especially moving for me. My father was born in Poland. His family left their small town for America at the end of World War I. My mother’s family made the journey just a few years earlier. They were lucky. They had the chance to leave before the Second World War was underway. And they were especially fortunate to come here to America. Today, I can proudly say I am a first generation American and Treasury Secretary of the United States.

Everyone has a specific journey and challenges overcome. It takes incredible resolve to become an American citizen. Citizenship isn’t given. It’s earned by each every person participating in these naturalization ceremonies this week. Their decision to become citizens has made our country stronger. We cannot forget we have always been a nation of immigrants. It is what defines us. And it is what makes our society and our economy so vibrant.

It is no surprise that when you look at the list of America’s best businesses, many of them were started by immigrants or children of immigrants. Immigration is not just something that is consistent with our values. It is also consistent with growing our economy, increasing jobs, and expanding our middle class. Yet the troubling truth remains that too many immigrants do not get a fair shot at the American dream. Too often, they are forced to live and work in the shadows. This not only hurts them, it hurts America as well.

There is a bipartisan immigration bill before Congress that would fix our broken immigration system. This comprehensive legislation does a number of things. It strengthens our borders. It provides a pathway to earned citizenship for the 11 million people who are here illegally. And it will boost economic growth.

This bill will drive growth by bringing highly skilled scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs to the United States. We will also see our deficits shrink, and with added workers on our payrolls, Social Security and Medicare will be put on a more stable footing. In fact, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, this legislation will lower our deficits by nearly a trillion dollars over the next two decades.

In addition to the celebration at Mt. Vernon and the Department of Treasury, there were ceremonies at the Chicago Cultural Center; Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Arizona; the Freedom Tower in Miami; the Battleship Missouri Memorial at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, South Korea. We congratulate all of our newest citizens and remind them, as the President often does when speaking at naturalization ceremonies, that in the United States anyone can write the next great chapter of our nation’s history.

Felicia Escobar is the Senior Policy Director for Immigration
Related Topics: Immigration, Arizona, Hawaii, Missouri