“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
~ Emma Lazurus
It’s a challenge to sit through a USCIS Naturalization ceremony and not get misty eyed at least once. I attend a ceremony at least once a month to celebrate the achievement of a new citizen, a stranger I now have the honor to call friend.
The steps of the ceremony are the same, but witnessing the passage of immigrant to United State citizen is special. With citizenship, more opportunities are available for employment. The ability to travel back home, sometimes after a multi year separation, is reality. The time it takes to petition for a relative shortens and families can reunite. As one Permanent Resident holder explained “I no longer have this invisible weight that I’ll be taken from my home and back to a country I don’t know”. Citizenship is freeing.
The USCIS ceremony I attended recently was held at Washington Crossing Historic Park. Fifty eight people from countries ranging from Liberia to Sweden gathered to take their oath.
This ceremony was one of many that ushered in new Americans during a special Presidents’ Day celebration. This week, over twenty thousand people stood and took the oath.
This particular ceremony was special because the Honorable George Washington attended, leading the crowd in The Pledge of Allegiance, their first time as United States Citizens.
Turning on the news daily, I am incensed to hear the misinformation about immigrants. Yes, a small fraction do bypass the rules but that diminishes the hours of work of those who study American History, demonstrating more knowledge than the average American knows about our country. To lump all immigrants together as criminals or cheap labor negates the work they do to learn and perfect English all so they can call the United States home.