Recent Blog Entries
- New Americans Campaign comes together for Citizenship Drive in Los Angeles
- Ushering in a New Season for CLINIC and our 11 Million Undocumented Neighbors
- Living in God's Image, Embracing the Immigrant
- Lent: A Reform of the Heart
- Immigration Policy and New Estimates of the U.S. Unauthorized Population
- A Lenten Call to Embrace Acts of Charity
- CLINIC Holds Unique, “Mega” Workshop Training Event in Los Angeles
- Do Immigration Laws Deny Religious Freedom?
- Joyful Anticipation
- Las Posadas: An Invitation to Hospitality
Celebrate Citizenship Day with Welcome to New Neighbors
Most of us don’t think about our citizenship status. We claim our country of birth proudly. That pride is doubled for immigrants who wait eagerly to apply for citizenship and naturalize as American citizens. There is no doubt it is a moment to remember. My own ceremony was only a few months ago but I will never forget the excitement and pride that overwhelmed me as I uttered the Pledge of Allegiance and sang the Star Spangled Banner for the first time and the honor I felt when I received my voter registration card in the mail. I was a U.S. citizen!
As we celebrate Citizenship Day, we must remember the millions of immigrants that have arrived on our shores in search of a better life and now are able to tell the story of how and why they became an American citizen. Each story is unique and filled with the dreams of opportunity and the reality of great sacrifice. Take for example the story of Mariana B., a native of Peru who was helped by the Asheville Legal Migration Assistance (ALMA) program in Charlotte, N.C. in filing for citizenship last year. Mariana, a housekeeper, left Peru more than a decade before in search of a better job and a safer environment. Despite limited English, Mariana wanted to pledge her allegiance to her new homeland and become a U.S. citizen. ALMA staff helped her enroll in an English class and tutored her in preparation for the citizenship test. Thank to ALMA’s assistance and Mariana’s dedication, in late 2008 Mariana passed her interview and became a citizen of the United States.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) estimates that it will naturalize more than 8,400 immigrants in citizenship ceremonies across the country today.
That number is a strong indicator of the growing interest among immigrants to naturalize and make official their adoption of the United States as their home. The Immigration Policy Center reports that 42 percent of all immigrants living in the United States, as of 2007, are naturalized citizens.  The number of immigrants that naturalize has continued to grow since 1990 from 8 million to 12.5 million in 2000 and 16.2 million in 2007.
These may seem like just numbers, but they also represent stories; stories that inspire and motivate our work every day. Across the country, CLINIC‘s network of more than 185 charitable immigration programs and other non profit organizations help hundreds of thousands of immigrants accomplish their dreams to be American citizens. Programs like Catholic Charities of Dallas that was recently awarded a grant from USCIS to help legal permanent residents (green card holders) file for citizenship. For the overwhelmingly majority of these program staff, it is a job done with passion, humility, and mission.
As the policy debate continues in Washington, may we take this day to remember our newest neighbors, listen to their stories, and offer a hand of welcome.
Happy Citizenship Day!
Melissa Williams is the public affairs officer for the CLINIC. She is a native of St. Kitts.
 2007 American Community Survey.
 U.S. Census Bureau. The Foreign-born Population. December 2003.
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