By Jane Morse
Some 225 people representing 69 nations had two reasons to celebrate on September 17: They became U.S. citizens in a naturalization ceremony at the U.S. National Archives on a day that honors the U.S. Constitution and citizenship.
They are among 32,000 people who will become U.S. citizens in 158 naturalization ceremonies across the United States the week of September 14–22 as part of nationwide celebrations of the 225th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution, which recognizes citizens’ rights and guarantees their freedoms. Becoming a citizen at the National Archives, however, has special significance, as it is home to the Charters of Freedom: the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence.
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, who participated in the naturalization ceremony at the National Archives, said, “There is no better time than Constitution Week to highlight the rights, responsibilities and importance of U.S. citizenship, and recognize the many contributions immigrants have made to this great nation.”
Since 2006, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has welcomed more than 4 million new citizens, Napolitano said. In 2011 alone, more than 691,000 people became citizens, she said.
“Welcoming enterprising immigrants into the American family is a fundamental part of our heritage and a critical piece of our continued success as a nation,” Napolitano said. New U.S. citizens, she said, “remind us that America is still a beacon of hope and opportunity for others.”
Immigrants to the United States, said U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Alejandro Mayorkas, “enrich our way of life and renew our pledge to democracy.” Mayorkas will officiate at a children’s citizenship ceremony in Los Angeles September 19. He will join Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to also introduce “citizenship corners” — local hubs for citizenship information — in all 73 City of Los Angeles public libraries.
Other highlights of the 2012 celebration include September 17 ceremonies at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, the Harry S. Truman Library & Museum in Independence, Missouri, and Point Reyes National Seashore in Point Reyes, California; a September 20 ceremony at Boston’s Faneuil Hall Marketplace; and a September 21 ceremony at the William J. Clinton Presidential Library & Museum in Little Rock, Arkansas.
In a proclamation he signed September 13, President Obama said: “As a new group of citizens takes an oath to support and defend our country’s oldest principles, we affirm another truth: that our American journey and our success would never have been possible without the hope, the drive, and the irrepressible optimism that every generation of immigrants has brought to our shores.”