Ellis Island Citizenship Day Naturalization Ceremony


Good morning ladies and gentlemen and distinguished guests. Please stand for the presentation of colors,by the Customs and Border Protection Honor Guard. Oh say can you see, by the dawn’s early light. What so proudly we hailed at the twilights last gleaming? Who’s broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming. And the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there. Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave. (Clapping)( Color Guard exits) Can we please have one more round of applause for Shyconia-Burden Noten Our very own community relations officer, from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Now on behalf of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services it is my sincere pleasure, to welcome you all to this very special naturalization ceremony. My name is Phyllis Colvin and I’m the District Director for USCIS here in New York. As you know hundreds of thousands of immigrants passed through this hall. Some may have sat in the same benches that some of your seating on today. By hosting this ceremony here, we honor them for their contributions to the foundation of our city and our country. For the talents gifts brought from their old home to their new home and for they all they accomplished after leaving Ellis Island. This ceremony also honors you and all who become Americans by choice. As this is our annual ceremony held in honor of citizenship and constitution day which is tomorrow September 17. Nationwide, this week USCIS will naturalize 38,000 people at nearly 240 ceremonies taking place across the country including two that are happening right now simultaneous with this one. One at the Lincoln Memorial and one at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. You are truly making history today, you are history in the making and we welcome you. We also welcome our very esteemed guests, who are here to make today even more memorable please welcome the Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit the Honorable Robert A. Katzman. (Clapping) Also please welcome U.S. District Court Judge for the Southern District of New York the Honorable Sydney H Stein. (Clapping) Finally please allow me to introduce and welcome Mr. John Piltzecker Superintendent of the Statute of Liberty (Clapping) and Ellis Island National Monument representing the National Park Service. Please if you would come forward and welcome us officially to this beautiful sight. (Clapping) Good morning, it’s my pleasure to welcome all of you on behalf of the National Park Service and all of the women and men who care for the statue of liberty National Monuments and Ellis Island. Our national parks are special places set aside by the American people, so that all might experience our heritage. Our national parks range from majestic open spaces like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone national park, to others like the Washington Monument and the Lincoln and the Jefferson memorials. Where the other naturalization ceremonies are happening today and places that help us understand our history and our heritage like the Martin Luther King birthplace in atlanta and the National Museum of immigration here at Ellis Island. This year 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service and I can think of no better way to celebrate the centennial of the National Park Service than to help host this naturalization ceremony today. So welcome to all of you and congratulations to all of our candidates. (Clapping) Thank you so much Superintendent and now I would like to invite the Honorable Sydney H. Stein of the U.S. district court southern district. Today’s magnificant ceremony is a tribute to the efforts of the southern district court and our relationship with the courts. We are honored to work so closely with them. (Clapping) Good morning it is a great pleasure and honor for me to address those of you who are about to take the oath of citizenship. I welcome you on behalf of the United States District Court for the southern district of new york. 227 years ago, my court was the very first federal court to sit in the newly created United States of America. It has a storied history and today each of you becomes part of that history.As a federal judge I do many different things but there is truly nothing that gives me greater pleasure than participating in the ceremony in which citizenship is granted to those all of you who have come to this country looking for a better life for yourselves and your children. It is a particularly meaningful experience for me because I think back to a time approximately a century ago, when my own grandparents disembarked on Ellis Island and later took the same oath of citizenship that you will take in a few minutes. At that time they were four individuals from Eastern Europe, who came to our country with almost certainly the very same hopes and dreams for themselves and for their children and their grandchildren that you have today. They seized those opportunities same opportunities await all of you today. Today is an important day for you but it is also an important day for the United States of America. Our country has grown and prospered because of the contributions of countless immigrants who came to this country became citizens and then became leaders in our government, the arts, business, in fact in all areas of American society. We look to all of you to continue on in that proud tradition. I know of no country in the world which so generously welcomes new citizens and so truly makes them equal in all respects. To those who were here before them. People who have come to our country as immigrants of later held important positions in our government as judges, members of Congress, and as local state and national officials. Countless opportunities are available to you and to your children. Many judges who sit in the Southern District of New York are the children or grandchildren of immigrants and at least one of my fellow judges is an immigrant himself. Ladies and gentlemen as you sit here today, you stand equal in all respects to every other citizen of our country. You have before you limitless opportunities because you are about to become citizens of the United States. Citizenship in our country is given freely and generously and is a great privilege, but also as citizens of the United States you now have serious responsibilities some of them are obvious to you. We are in the midst of our quadrennial presidential campaign because you now have the right to vote you have a responsibility to register to vote and to vote. When you cast your vote the first tuesday in November, November eight you will be helping to make a meaningful contribution to our government. I urge all of you to participate in our wonderful open, vigorous, messy, exhilarating democratic process. Ladies and gentlemen in my view an important obligation that you have as new citizens will be to respect the rights of each and every one of your fellow citizens. All of us take pride in our ethnic heritage. That is why here in New York we have St. Patrick’s Day parades, Dominican day parades, Columbus Day parades, and scores of other parades honoring various ethnic groups. But we must not let pride in our own heritage serve as a reason for discriminating against any one of our other citizens. I know that many of you come from countries where discrimination against people of other classes or casts or nationalities was an accepted practice. And many of you I have no doubt left those countries because of those practices, but all of you have the obligation not to discriminate against anyone because of their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, or national origin. If you discriminate against another citizen of this country you are not being faithful to the oath of citizenship that you are going to take this morning. As I said earlier ladies and gentlemen, today is a great day for you. It’s a great day for the Southern District of New York. It’s a great day for the United States. It’s a great day for the little children whose voices I hear. It’s it it’s a wonderful thing at these ceremonies when you hear the babble and the excitement of little children because we’re all here for ourselves and for them and for their children. May God bless each and every one of you and may God bless the United States of America. Thank you (Clapping) Thank you Judge Stein and now a special treat. I’d like to invite students from the Harlem Educational Activities Fund to come forward for a recitation of the preamble to the United States Constitution. (Clapping) (Students getting in position) 123 We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish Justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America. (Clapping) Thank you, terrific job Ok before (Clapping) Before we begin what is are truly formal part of the ceremony today, we have among our 300 citizens to be naturalized, a member of the US military who we would like to acknowledge for his service to this country even before becoming a citizen, Ling G. Quan of the US Army National Guard. (Clapping)Please stand and be recognized.(Clapping) Thank you for your service Ok for the reason we are here, today we welcome 300 new Americans who have come from 53 different countries, soon you will all stand as one and become citizens of the United States of America. Candidates in just a few moments you will be asked to raise your right hand and to get ready to recite the Oath of Allegiance. As you say those words you will be making the very same pledge that millions of immigrants have made before you. As you say those words you will be fulfilling the final requirements of U.S. Citizen Citizenship and as you say those words you will become an American. Candidates when I call the name of your country of origin, please stand and remain standing until all countries have been called and then Judge Katzman will provide the Oath. Albania, Antigua Barbados, Argentina Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Brazil, Bulgaria Cambodia, Canada, People’s Republic of China Colombia, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire Cuba, Dominica, (Loud cheering and clapping) Dominican Republic, (Cheering) Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, France, Ghana, Greece, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungry, India, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Liberia, Mali, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, The Philippines, Poland, Russia, Senegal, Sierra Leone South Korea, St. Kitt’s Nevis, St. Lucia Sweden, Swaziland, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Ukraine, and Venezuela. (Clapping and Cheering) So, now all applicants for naturalization should be standing and I invite the Honorable Robert A. Katzman Chief Judge for the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to come forward for the presentation of candidates. Chief Judge Katzman is known here in New York and nationally as a champion for immigrant rights and it’s really a great honor (Clapping) and have him (Clapping) officiate here today. Chief Judge Katzman each of these three hundred candidates has been personally examined under oath by a designated officer. Each has demonstrated an understanding of English unless exempt and knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of history and the principles and form of the government of the United States. Each has been found to be a person of good moral character attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States and well-disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States. The investigations of the government have been completed in their cases and each has been found to meet all the requirements of the law to be naturalized. Judge Katzman the candidates are ready to take the Oath of Allegiance. (Clapping) Please right raise your right hand. I hereby declare, on , absolutely and entirely, renounce and abjure all Allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, Potentate, State, or sovereignty of whom or which I have here to fore been a subject or citizen.; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America Against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the armed forces of the United States, when required by the law. That I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God. Congratulations (Clapping) You may be seated. My fellow citizens, how good it is to say That. Our country, our country this great country is even stronger, even greater than it was moments ago because you are now our citizens. How fortunate all of us are to have you here, contributing your hopes, your aspirations, your skills, your heritages, your cultures, your music, your literature, your food to this tapestry of this nation. The American story, is your story. We are a grand quilt of cultures and diversity as Director Colvin said you number some 300 from all over the world from some 53 countries, in this what I understand is the largest collective naturalization ceremony in the history of Ellis Island.(Clapping) Think of those like you, who came through this island, Ellis Island the gateway of their hopes. Often different in their cultures, color, and religion and personal circumstance. Often with just pennies to their name however different they might have been from one another they all shared a dream. Your dream, a dream of a better life in this country. The repository indeed the engine of their dreams. They embrace the country whose Statute of Liberty proclaims in the words of the poet Emma Lazarus. Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Many of you have come at great sacrifice. I know something about the immigrant experience being the son of a refugee from Nazi Germany and the grandson of Russian immigrants. I can still hear the accents and voices of my youth. Excuse me, family members like you who believe in this country who with their toil, their sweat their loyalty, and conviction celebrated being citizens of the United States. Who made lives here, we had families of which I’m a beneficiary and of which you and your children will be beneficiaries. Let your children and their children know your stories, be enriched by your cultures, your past as they enjoy their lives as U.S. citizens. The U.S. story as I said is your story, we are a tapestry of cultures. I know our newest citizens, many of whom have lives scarred by oppression, hunger, war, and fear understand deeply the values of freedom of speech and worship. The right to vote, and change government’s peacefully, and the guarantees of due process in a court of law. My father who experienced a Nazi tyranny as a boy and as a teenager, told me of the great feeling he had when he got to this country of being free, of being able to walk the streets of not having to fear being accosted because of his his religion. Understanding that past has not only fortified my own resolve to ensure that ours is a country that remains true to its principle of justice for all, I think it is fortified the resolve of so many who have had similar pasts. Too many of us who are native born take for granted the freedoms we enjoy. For native-born Americans there is no conscious moment when they choose to be a United States citizen, they are born that way but for you and the nearly 700,000 new Americans naturalized by federal judges every year the experience of citizenship is quite different. After intensive study of civics and English, you raise your hand and swore as you just did to support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. This Constitution and citizenship day which we celebrate today as Director Cova noted is indeed thanks to you, a living civics lesson as we witness the final step of those foreign born who are about to become new citizens. And as you are new citizens raise your hand and pledged to defend the Constitution, the rest of us should take a few moments to reflect on the liberties it grants us. To realize that we must be ever vigilant to protect those liberties, which those of you our newest citizens can tell from their own experiences in repressive regimes are precious and not to be taken for granted. And you will find many who share with you that commitment to ensure justice for all. The president, the presence today of the fellows of the Immigrant Justice Corp and its dynamic executive director JoJo Annobil. The Immigrant Justice Corp an organization I helped start is an organization of newly minted lawyers and recent college graduates many with immigrant backgrounds themselves dedicated to providing high quality legal assistance immigrants. Indeed, thanks to the support of the Immigrant Justice Corp in one of our community fellows there is among us today a newly naturalized citizen who had the support of one of those fellows. (Clapping) Thinking about this wonderful day I want to read a couple of words of the great judge from my court learning hand. The time was world war two, country was under great threat. The setting Central Park, the year 1944 and the swearing-in of new citizens. Judge Hand the chief judge of the Second Circuit spoke of the Liberty, the spirit of Liberty which gave are immigrants the courage to break from the past and brave the dangers and loneliness of a strange land. Liberty that is understood as freedom from oppression, freedom from want, freedom to be ourselves. Judge Hand said the spirit of Liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right. The spirit of Liberty is a spirit which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women. The spirit of Liberty is the spirit which weighs their interests alongside its own bias. The spirit of Liberty remembers that not even a sparrow falls to earth unheaded. I have no doubt that the spirit of Liberty will thrive with you as citizens. To become a citizen you passed every test and as polls show you know more about our Constitution about our government than most native-born Americans. Because of your personal histories you have a special feeling for the freedoms and liberties and rights in the Constitution and the need to preserve them. You will keep this country great, you will make it better as you assume the responsibilities of citizenship. Indeed it is each of our responsibilities to keep this country great, to point out where things need to be improved, to ensure that our freedoms are vital for the generations to come. On April 6, 1923 a young woman born in Minsk, Russia; fleeing the repressive regime of the USSR made the arduous journey through Poland and England. And then rides on a boat the Aquitania came to this island, Ellis Island. She would later marry another Russian immigrant who even before he was naturalized as a United States citizen 1920, had fought for this country in the first world war. They worked hard, she in a pocketbook factory and he has a tailor. Together they raised two children, they believed in this country so deeply. I knew them well they were my grandparents it means more to me than I can say that I stand here in some sense as their representative, as I am also in some sence a representative of my father born in Germany and his mother who came together in March of 1941. The American Dream is about aspiration and a achievement. I wish for all of you here as I know my family of immigrants would wish for you every success and happiness, that all your dreams for yourselves and your families will come true. I am grateful for the privilege of swearing you in as citizens and I congratulate you. (Clapping) Thank you Judge Katzman. At this time I would like to invite new U.S. citizen Joseph Talbot to come forward to lead us all in the Pledge of Allegiance, would all members of the audience please stand. Please put your right hand over your heart please and recite after me, I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God indivisible with liberty and justice for all. (Clapping) You may be seated and I now ask that everyone please direct their attention to the screen for some special congratulatory remarks from another great New Yorker the Honorable Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.(Clapping) Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this very special naturalization ceremony, it is my pleasure and delight to welcome each of you as a citizen of the United States of America. Today our nation celebrates Constitution Day also called citizenship day our country has set aside this day to recognize the signing of the United States Constitution. I am sure that now you will add today to your list of special days to celebrate. At least once a year you should take a day to remember how hard you have work to earn your citizenship and to provide your family with the hopes and dreams that this nation offers you. Todays ceremony marks the conclusion of a significant journey in each one of your lives. For many of you this journey was filled with tremendous barriers and adversity. Some of you persevered through difficult and dangerous circumstances fleeing injustice, intolerance, and oppression. Yet all of you were determined to secure the right to call this country, the United States home. For me an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, it is truly a privilege and an honor to congratulate you on your achieving citizenship and to recognize you as fellow citizens. Although my own parents were born in Puerto Rico, the United States territory they too were migrants. Through their experiences I can appreciate that for many of you if not all of you the price of citizenship has been very high. Leaving your birthplaces behind perhaps leaving family and friends behind, all while adapting to a new life and a new culture is never easy. I admire your courage and commend your spirit seeing all of you here today as we celebrate your very first citizenship day reminds me in a very personal and moving way that America does mean freedom and liberty. Not just freedom and liberty from oppression but freedom and liberty to pursue ones dreams, to be all that one can be, to accomplish all that one can accomplish. I wish I could describe the United States of America as perfect, but as citizens you and I are well aware that it is not and there is still work to be done. Yet the need to dream, the need to hope that is what is important that is the gift of America. Your presence at today’s ceremony is a testament to your own faith in those timeless principles and an indication of the role you will play in helping to preserve and to expand the promise of America for generations to come. But with freedom and liberty and opportunity comes responsibility you are now citizens remember to make your voices heard. It is your right and your obligation to vote because voting is your fundamental way of expressing your views. Remember however that voting is not the only way to contribute, write your elected officials and express your views. Volunteer your time and talents, become an active part of our community. When called for jury service come and serve this is one of the most central and important obligations of citizenship. I also asked you not to forget your backgrounds and the cultures that you came from we can all constantly learn from each other and from our differences. The history of our nation proves that our collective success depends on the contributions of Americans by choice every bit as much as the contributions of Americans by birth. We know that all people, no matter what their birthplace, their ethnic or religious background, how rich or how poor continue to share and creating this country. The diverse people of this country are its greatest strength. We can all appreciate that we are infinitely richer by our diversity and that by honoring our diversity the promise of America will continue to shine on us on our children and throughout the world. And now my fellow citizens a very special congratulations to you on this most momentous occasion. My very best wishes for many years of happiness, success, and good health as citizens of the United States of America. (Clapping) Well this marks the end of your naturalization ceremony. Congratulations again to all of our United States citizens.(Clapping) Bwe know that no one makes this journey alone and we extend a special thank you to all the friends and family that helped you along the way. And especially those who are here to celebrate your achievement today. Please join me again in thanking Judge Stein, Chief Judge Katzman, and Mr. Piltzecker for being a part of this special ceremony. Our gratitude really goes to the National Park Service and the court for their generous support of this very very special event. And I’d also like to thank my staff, our staff of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service for making today’s ceremony possible. Well this concludes our ceremony.(Clapping) Applicants please remain in your seats, Family yes you’re welcome to remain in your seats or not but if you choose to exit the room right now please use the exit to my right. Applicants we will be directing you row by row starting from this end in a path around the stage towards the tables again to pick up your certificates. When we checked you in on your notice of appointment we wrote a number, a table numb, right?

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