On Sept. 17, we celebrate Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, as part of Constitution Week. On this day, we recognize the signing of the U.S. Constitution and reflect upon the meaning and importance of citizenship and what it means to be an American, whether native or foreign-born.
With slightly more than 4,500 words, the Constitution formulates our system of government, comprised of checks and balances among three branches of government, in order to protect individual liberty.
It defines our shared rights and responsibilities as citizens and promises the freedom that carries us forward as a nation. The Constitution also provides the framework for the legal immigration system that allows immigrants from across the world to join us and fully contribute as American citizens. At 232 years old, our Constitution is as relevant today as the day it was written.
Across the country this week, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) will welcome over 34,000 new citizens at more than 300 special naturalization ceremonies in celebration of Constitution Week. Each naturalization ceremony embodies the remarkable concept of “e pluribus unum” (out of many, one), which is alive and well and at the heart of USCIS’ mission to administer the nation’s lawful immigration system.
These aspiring Americans will start their day as citizens of many different countries, with different backgrounds, traditions, native languages, and religions. Yet, upon taking a solemn oath of allegiance to the United States at a naturalization ceremony, they will all instantly have one thing in common – their status as a citizen of this great nation and a shared commitment to our country and Constitution. Citizenship is a common factor that unites us as a people and gives us all a sense of ownership in America’s future.
Becoming a naturalized citizen is an extraordinary act of patriotism and a tangible demonstration of assimilation into the United States. Naturalization is a privilege reserved for those who have followed the legal process, met all the eligibility requirements, and promised to support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States.
We believe that U.S. citizenship is the greatest honor and privilege in the world. The Constitution “secures the blessings of liberty” so that we can live in freedom, both individually and as a nation, by protecting our rights and providing for a common defense.
At USCIS, our commitment to naturalizing new American citizens is unwavering. In fact, USCIS naturalized more than 750,000 people in fiscal year 2018, reaching a five-year high in new oaths of citizenship. This is a testament to the professionalism, expertise, and dedication of the USCIS workforce. We are proud to assist in making the American dream come true for new U.S. citizens who have followed the law.
Each new U.S. citizen brings unique skills, talents, and experiences to their community and this nation. I believe we are an ever stronger and more vital nation because of the legal immigrants who make a permanent commitment to the United States, and I am honored to lead the agency that oversees this life-changing process for our newest citizens.