Newly naturalized Americans reflect on citizenship in a fraught political era

Newly naturalized Americans reflect on citizenship in a fraught political era


JUDY WOODRUFF: The president’s language on
immigration and his attacks on four congresswomen of color have sparked a national conversation
about xenophobia and racism. But across the country every year, hundreds
of thousands of immigrants still make their way to the U.S. and begin the rigorous process
to eventually become citizens. Earlier this week, producer Kate Grumke went
to a naturalization ceremony in Alexandria, Virginia, and talked to newly minted Americans
about what it means to be a citizen and an immigrant in this politically charged time. EDGARDO RAMIREZ, Becoming U.S. Citizen: My
name is Edgardo Ramirez. I’m from El Salvador. It’s a very special moment, because there’s
a lot of people that would really like the opportunity to do it, and there’s just no
way they can. I’m glad it’s coming to an end, and I don’t
have to worry about any potential problems from not being a citizen. Today, my wife, Jessica, and my daughter Sofia
and my son Gabriel is here with me. My daughter was kind of nervous on the way
here because she sees the news sometimes, too. And she’s like, “Daddy, what are you going
to go do today?” And I just told her, you know, I’m just going
to become a U.S. citizen, and I don’t have to worry about any of the stuff that she sees
on the news. I stayed with my grandmother in El Salvador. When I was about 5 years old, my mother came
here. And I came here with my older brother in October
of 2000. It was a long wait. Like, between court hearings, it could be
years. About 16 years, I have been in process, ever
since I came to the United States, obviously, a lot of money to get to this point. SARAH TAYLOR, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration
Services: It’s my pleasure and my honor to be with you here today to celebrate your United
States citizenship. I’m Sarah Taylor. I’m the district director for the Washington
district of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. It’s different for every person, but, generally,
they will have been here as permanent residents for three to five years. They will pay an application fee and get biometrics
taken to file. And they will be interviewed by an officer
of the service, who will determine that they read, write, and speak English. They have to know civics and government as
well. And then the final step in the process is
to take the oath of allegiance at a naturalization ceremony. Today, we naturalized 170 people. In fiscal year ’18, it was over 750,000 people
who naturalized nationally. For this particular ceremony, we had immigrants
who we’re naturalizing from 56 different countries. Northern Virginia and D.C. very diverse. Congratulations. You’re American citizens. (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) WOMAN: I’m from Zimbabwe. HA NGUYGEN, Became U.S. Citizen: I am from
Vietnam. MATTIE HUNSADER, Became U.S. Citizen: I’m
originally from Philippines, and, today, I took my oath as a U.S. citizen. WOMAN: That is a great thing, to be a citizen. MATTIE HUNSADER: This is the land of opportunity. So I am really looking forward to what opportunities
I can explore in this country. HA NGUYGEN: To be able to vote is something
that I think is very powerful, to be able to participate in that democracy. I am excited for November and elections beyond. DONALD TRUMP, President of the United States:
It is with great pride that I welcome you into the American family. No matter where you come from, or what faith
you practice, this country is now your country. Our history is now your history. HA NGUYGEN: Earlier in the room, there’s a
message from the president as well, like very welcoming and other things. And it kind of sounded like a script, compared
to what he’s currently saying out in the news. United Nations My opinion about immigration,
I think they should all come legally and just do all the application and everything, and
life will be good, I think, and easy. DOREENA PHOENIX, Washington, D.C.: If you’re
here in America, you have to obey the laws and follow the laws. EDGARDO RAMIREZ: I have had a pathway here
since I came here, because both my parents were here and they were here for a long time. But, you know, there’s virtually no pathway
for people to come here just because they’re trying to get away from violence and, you
know, poverty and struggles of their countries. It’s not that easy. People who have minor infractions, they don’t
have a way to become naturalized. And, you know, they have been torn apart from
their sons, daughters, wives, and family members here. I just think it’s very unfair. I’m just glad that I’m finally a U.S. citizen,
after a long wait.

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