As the daughter and son of immigrants, we have lived the American dream. Every day, we work side by side with federal officials who are deeply committed to ensuring that the promise of this dream is available to all Americans, including our newest Americans. That’s why we are honored to serve as the co-chairs of the White House Task Force on New Americans.
On November 9, The Washington Post published “DHS Bid to Go Digital Falls Flat,” a story on the digitization program launched by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in 2006. The story fails to recognize the progress DHS and USCIS have made in recent years to correct course on this important initiative. Thanks to efforts to modernize our immigration services, we have provided a fresh start to the program. It is now within cost and on schedule.
Some of our nation’s newest and youngest (and costumed) U.S. citizens recite the Pledge of Allegiance at a special Halloween-themed children’s citizenship ceremony at the Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) Railroad Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. Forty-six children from 28 countries for citizenship were recognized. USCIS holds citizenship ceremonies around the country to welcome and celebrate our newest Americans.
USCIS welcomed 100 new citizens from almost three dozen countries on Oct. 18 during a special naturalization ceremony at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City during the fourth annual People en Español Festival. During the ceremony, former New York Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera and Thalia, the singer, songwriter, actress, author, entrepreneur and fashion designer, were recognized as Outstanding Americans by Choice.
In 1965, President Johnson stood on Liberty Island in the shadow of our Statue of Liberty and signed into law the Immigration and Nationality Act. The passage of the Act marked a significant and much-needed change to our Nation’s immigration policies. It ended an unfair quota system, prohibited discrimination based on country of origin, and officially recognized the role of our immigration system in reuniting families and attracting skilled workers from all over the world.
To be sure, I am disappointed that our efforts to improve employee satisfaction at DHS were not reflected Department-wide in this year’s results of the Federal Employee Viewpoint survey. I am disappointed but not discouraged. We will not give up. We know that improving employee satisfaction across a 22-component, 240,000-person department takes time.
If you are eligible to naturalize, you should seriously consider applying for citizenship. USCIS Director León Rodríguez just took that message to Dallas, where he saw firsthand last week how organizations are helping to spread the word among permanent residents.
On Aug. 31, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson will travel to McAllen, Texas to receive a briefing on efforts of the Department’s three Joint Task Forces, JTF – East, JTF – West and JTF Investigations, and to discuss the Department’s Southern Border and Approaches Campaign Plan, the unified border security effort between U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the U.S. Coast Guard.
In a special ceremony at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) field office in Miami, Amanda Angelica Budino, a 100-year-old applicant from Buenos Aires, Argentina, recently took the Oath of Allegiance and became a naturalized U.S. Citizen. She has lived in the United States since 2001 and currently resides with her daughter and granddaughter in Miami. Mrs. Budino was the only member of her family who had not attained U.S. citizenship, and said she didn’t want to die without becoming an American citizen.
Last week, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) activities converged on an honorable theme: commemorating Independence Day through service to our nation. Throughout the week, DHS components and employees incorporated the spirit of Independence Day into their efforts, continued to carry out the unwavering DHS mission to protect the U.S., and reflected on how their service contributes to the success of our nation.