Guest blog post by Under Secretary for Economic Affairs Mark Doms
Last Friday, I was given the honor of speaking to about 500 people from 80 countries who took the oath to become U.S. citizens at a ceremony in Sterling, Virginia. The happiness, joy, pride, and gratitude in the room brought tears to my eyes, especially after imagining the collective hardships endured, the journeys taken, and the fears overcome by our new citizens.
Like my family, most of us owe our lives and citizenship to our ancestors who left their homes, families, and friends behind to start a new life in a land of freedom and opportunity. We remain thankful for the incredible journeys and sacrifices they made so that their children could have better lives. Likewise, the children and grandchildren of the people granted citizenship in Sterling, Virginia last Friday will also look back with special thanks to our new Americans.
And let us not forget the instrumental roles that immigrants and their descendants have played in growing America’s economy. Further, our history as a nation of immigrants has defined our culture, and the diversity of ideas and customs that immigration provides keeps us competitive in this ever-changing world.
Undoubtedly, the 500 people I spoke to have faced numerous challenges on their road to becoming U.S. citizens, including the challenge of traversing a broken immigration system. Thanks to a strong bipartisan effort in the U.S. Senate, we are much closer to fixing that system. Doing so will uphold our history as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.
As years pass, I suspect that today, July 4th, 2013, will stand out in my memory because of the 500 lives that changed in Sterling, Virginia, and the possibility that many millions more lives will change – and strengthen our nation – in the years to come.