By: Allison Posner*
Out of many, one. This phrase was suggested by the committee appointed by Congress to design a seal for the United States of America on July 4, 1776. Yesterday, President Obama reminded us of this motto found on our nation’s coins in his first speech about immigration since taking office last January. The President stated that “being an American is not a matter of blood or birth. It’s a matter of faith. It’s a matter of fidelity to the shared values that we all hold so dear.”
In honor of Independence Day, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is planning 55 ceremonies across the U.S. and abroad this week, during which more than 3,800 people will become U.S. citizens. Nine ceremonies are specifically for members of the U.S. armed forces (and their spouses) who are already serving our country. These men and women are already demonstrating fidelity to the shared values of our one nation through their actions – volunteering to protect those values as members of the U.S. military, even before becoming American citizens.
While there is certainly still a long way to go to secure meaningful immigration reform to fix the broken system of legal immigration, USCIS is taking steps to improve the process of obtaining citizenship for those who are already permanent residents of the United States. Last month, USCIS announced that the average processing time for an application for naturalization to be adjudicated is now 5 months. This is down from the two to four years that it may have taken as recently as 2008.
Additionally, CLINIC and other advocates have been working with USCIS on a new version of the form that naturalization applicants use to obtain a medical waiver (in case of physical or mental disabilities impacting an individual’s ability to fulfill the naturalization requirements). The form is still in the review and comment process, but the proposed revisions make it much easier for doctors to complete on behalf of patients applying for U.S. citizenship.
“Independence Day reminds us all what it means to be an American,” said USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas. “Today let us celebrate our newest Americans who, in taking the Oath of Allegiance and becoming United States citizens, will truly cherish this right, and will renew our highest aspirations to be the best that we can be as a nation of immigrants.”
So on this Independence Day, let us hope for a better future for our immigrant brothers and sisters and the millions of people who so desperately want to embody the spirit of America. The next time you take out a coin to pay for a parking meter, or buy a soft drink, take a closer look and remember one of the fundamental principles of this country: E Pluribus Unum.
*Allison Posner is the Director of Advocacy for Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.