A Celebration of Citizenship
(As published in La Opinión. Also in Spanish)
On September 17, 1787, delegates in Philadelphia signed our nation’s Constitution and indelibly committed us to the highest ideals of a democracy. We commemorate this noble act by celebrating Constitution Day and Citizenship Day each September 17 in cities and towns across our country.
As administrators of our nation’s immigration system, we at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) take pride when we welcome as citizens individuals from all over the world who have embraced our nation’s Constitutional principles, those enshrined by the delegates in Philadelphia so many years ago. For us, the week of September 17 is a week of commemoration and celebration as we administer the oath of allegiance to new Americans in naturalization ceremonies from coast to coast.
Congress and the President have provided extraordinary leadership in their commitment to citizenship and, thereby, to our nation’s founding ideals. They have funded at unprecedented levels our citizenship and immigrant integration programs, which offer needed support for the more than eight million permanent residents who are eligible to apply for citizenship but who have not yet done so.
Today we are honored to announce nearly $8 million in grants, through the Citizenship and Integration Grant Program, to 75 organizations across the country. With this funding, the recipient organizations will expand citizenship resources and build capacity to prepare immigrants for citizenship. USCIS will also unveil today a free online Citizenship Resource Center that provides immigrants, teachers, and organizations with a one-stop portal for locating citizenship resources.
At a time when state and local governments face budget shortfalls and programs supporting English language learning and citizenship are particularly hard hit, these federal contributions provide critical support in our communities.
During the past year, we have furthered our commitment to citizenship and integration in other ways as well. Our website is now available in both English and Spanish and application status and processing times can be tracked online. Local USCIS offices regularly open their doors by hosting free public information sessions on citizenship eligibility and the naturalization process. We also began a partnership with the City of Los Angeles to promote immigrant integration through proactive citizenship awareness, education, and outreach activities.
In the past year, USCIS made improvements to the naturalization process by fully implementing a more meaningful and uniformly-administered naturalization test. Since then, the national pass rate has averaged 92 percent, demonstrating that applicants who study and thoroughly prepare can ultimately pass the test. Naturalization processing times have also improved dramatically, to less than five months across the country.
American citizenship is a unique bond that unites people around civic ideals and a belief in the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the United States Constitution. Being American is not about one’s religion, the color of one’s skin, or the place of one’s birth. Citizenship transcends our differences by bestowing upon us all equal rights and responsibilities. Please join me in recognizing Constitution Day and Citizenship Day as a celebration of the unifying principles that define our past and ensure our future as a beacon of hope and opportunity for the world.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Department of Homeland Security