A Reflection on Immigration as USCIS Naturalizes Over 6,600 New Americans

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) celebrates Independence Day this year by welcoming more than 6,600 new citizens in more than 140 naturalization ceremonies between July 1 and July 8. Immigration services will be holding these ceremonies at historic venues all across the country to celebrate America’s 246th birthday.

In the Fiscal Year for 2021, USCIS welcomed 855,000 new U.S. citizens. In 2022, USCIS welcomed 661,500 new U.S. citizens as of June 15 and have made significant progress in reducing the tiring and time consuming naturalization pending queues.

USCIS Director Ur M. Jaddou in a statement was quoted as saying “Throughout our nation’s history, the promise of both life and liberty, and the freedom to pursue happiness, is what has drawn millions from across the globe to call America their home. At USCIS, our belief in the promise of America is renewed daily as we work to welcome immigrants as our fellow citizens.”

“There is nothing more patriotic than making the choice to be an American. This July 4, I’m proud to celebrate the more than 6,600 people who have invested their lives and hopes in our nation as new U.S. citizens. Our country will be stronger and more diverse because of the choice they have made.”

While all this is pleasing to hear, a lot of concerns are being raised regarding the country’s anti-immigrant politics? On the 27th of June 2002, news filtered in that more than 50 migrants had died in the back of a tractor-trailer near San Antonio, the men, women and children having been baked alive in the blistering Texas heat. Anti-immigrant Republicans quickly seized the opportunity and laid the blame at the feet of President Joe Biden. Not because the president had anything directly to do with this disaster, this was the work of human traffickers taking advantage of desperate people willing to risk everything for a new life in the United States.

In the eyes of hard-core Republicans, President Biden seems to have a lot of compassion for those trying to circumvent restrictive border policies. In the eyes of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Mr. Biden is at fault because he’s too soft on the Southern borders. His walls aren’t long enough, his border guards not numerous or aggressive enough, his detention facilities not overcrowded or inhumane enough, his unwillingness to treat asylum-seekers as chattel a sign of weakness instead of what it is — an act of civility and kindness.

“These deaths are on Biden,” Governor Abbott pronounced on Twitter before any bodies could be buried or, in many cases, even identified. “They are a result of his deadly open border policies. They show the deadly consequences of his refusal to enforce the law.” As the nation will celebrate its independence, gained 246 years ago by people who had much more in common with the San Antonio victims than with grandstanding politicians — their families rooted even further from the U.S. border than the new arrivals who died getting here. People like Greg Abbott or Donald Trump can’t even bring themselves to see today’s generation of immigrants as human, let alone equivalent to the founders. They prefer to call them “illegals.”

President Joe Biden has been accused by Republicans of been too soft on illegal immigrants. Photo -NY Times

The United States in the eyes of many seem to have forgotten that the beautiful and prosperous country they live in today was built majorly by immigrants, dating back to the dark years when slaves from Africa were captured and brought in chains to work in the fields and plantations of wealthy white Americans. The country also seems to have forgotten all about “The Age of Exploration”, during which a large scale European colonization of the Americas took place between about 1492 and 1800. Europeans of all sorts from the Dutch, to the Italians, French, Germans, English, Irish and Greeks migrated to America in large numbers. They settled down there, built cities and gradually became integrated into the society that has been run by their future generations.

Americans probably don’t know that places like New Orleans and New York were founded by immigrants from Orleans in France and the English who originally came from York in England. Same with Amsterdam, a city in New York which was named so after a large group of Dutch settlers set up shop there. Could the reason for the American anti-immigrant push back be because a lot of the new generation of immigrants in the US aren’t Caucasian? No one speaks of these things but the truth is Blacks, Latinos, Indians and people of colour have always been looked down upon by the white majority in America. Granting citizenship to those who deserve it is all well and fine, but it should be taken further to ensure that everyone irrespective of the colour of their skin gets the same treatment and privileges their fellow white citizens get. Sadly, even the Democrats have failed to do much to address the crass racial discrimination that’s prevalent in the American society today.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott blames President Biden for the sudden surge of immigrants across the US southern borders. Photo -Business Insider Images

The United States has always tried to pride itself as a nation that believes all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, which are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness.” Except of course, it doesn’t hold all men equal or women for that matter. The country did not in 1776 and neither is it happening in 2022. Yes, slavery has been outlawed and steps have been taken to support equal rights for women (then rolled some back). But to exist as a person of color in this country today is to face a lower life expectancy, a greater likelihood of imprisonment or violent death, and a host of systemic obstacles to success — including a denial by conservatives that these disadvantages exist at all.

Drawing from a quote from an OP-ED in The Baltimore Sun, “When Europeans die 5,000 miles away in Ukraine; we immediately and rightly look for ways to help protect them, to defend them, to find homes for them. Why then can’t we show the same compassion for those fleeing economic disasters in Mexico or Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador? They are not our enemies; although those arrested in the deadly smuggling operation, if found guilty, should be regarded as such. Let us never forget that eight of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence were not born in America. Helping our fellow human beings doesn’t make us weaker; it makes us stronger — and a step closer to achieving the lofty ideals the framers had in mind “.

As the independence celebrations roll on, the onus is on the American government to start to do right by its citizens of color. Only then can the United States be genuinely known as the land of the free and home of the brave.

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