A ceremony on World Refugee Day: Naturalization of new citizens is a fitting observance | CLINIC

A ceremony on World Refugee Day: Naturalization of new citizens is a fitting observance

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Jun 20, 2016
Jeanne Atkinson

Today, on World Refugee Day, I had the honor of attending a naturalization ceremony at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Thirty-six men and women who left their homes and sought protection in the United States took the oath of allegiance and waved American flags as they were proclaimed citizens of the United States of America.

They came from all over the world -- from Afghanistan to Eritrea, from Russia to Vietnam. Like those who came before them, they became citizens of the country built not on race or religion but on the ideals of equality, liberty and opportunity.

At CLINIC, we see this in action around the country. Our affiliates serve immigrants without regard to race or religion, such as when Catholic Charities of the East Bay serves Muslim refugees who were resettled by Jewish Social Services. Similarly, Catholic Community Services in Salt Lake City partners with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to serve immigrants from Somalia, Burma and around the world.

Throughout history, people have moved from one place to another. We always have. We move to find opportunity, to reunite with family, to find safety.

The ceremony at the Holocaust Museum on World Refugee Day was a stark reminder that we have a humanitarian obligation to protect people who are forced to flee for their safety, whether from a totalitarian regime across the globe or from persecution in the Americas closer to home.

Those of us who are citizens by birth and those who became citizens by choice have a responsibility to be civically engaged. Today was a reminder that sometimes prejudice kills, that hatred kills. Apathy too can kill.

So on World Refugee Day, let us welcome the newest citizens, recognize the sacrifices many of our ancestors made to start lives here, and commit to living the ideals that makes the United States a home of which we can be proud.

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Atkinson is Executive Director of CLINIC.