Washington -- The
United States is reaching out to new citizens by making
their swearing-in ceremony a truly memorable event and aiding
them in their transition to American life.
More than 15,000 people will become America’s
newest citizens during a weeklong series of special ceremonies
linked to Independence Day -- July 4, America’s 229th
“Every Fourth of July we are reminded
of the sacred responsibilities and privileges we enjoy as
Americans,” said Michael Petrucelli, acting director
of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). “Over
the next week, USCIS will introduce more than 15,000 new
citizens to our American values of life, liberty and freedom,
and allow them to truly celebrate Independence Day for the
“Each year, more than 450,000 immigrants
become U.S. citizens during naturalization ceremonies across
the country,” according to a USCIS press release.
“Included in those numbers are more than 10,000 service
members who have been naturalized through an expedited process
since the beginning of the war on terrorism.”
On April 15, then-USCIS Director Eduardo
Aguirre swore in four injured soldiers and the spouse of
another soldier at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in
Washington. The five new citizens are Dennis Sedlyar of
Ukraine, Mervin Bautista Roxas of the Philippines, twin
brothers Jose and Juan Gallo of Peru, and Charles Wilson,
the husband of soldier Juanita Wilson, of Liberia. On March
8, Alfonso Rojas of Mexico was sworn in at Walter Reed.
Each soldier had been injured while serving
in Iraq and was awarded citizenship for his or her sacrifices.
“Thousands of immigrant troops are
making extraordinary sacrifices for America, and there is
no more fitting way for a grateful nation to demonstrate
its appreciation than making them citizens,” said
Aguirre, who is the new U.S. ambassador to Spain. “We
pay the ultimate honor to those who have given so much.”
Under an executive order signed by President
Bush in July 2002, legal permanent residents actively serving
in the U.S. military and legal permanent residents who were
on active duty on or after September 11, 2001, and were
honorably discharged, are immediately eligible to apply
for naturalization. More than 13,000 military personnel
have applied for expatiated citizenship since the executive
order was signed.
In an effort to aid these new citizens and
other immigrants in their transition to American life, USCIS
has just published Welcome
to the United States: a Guide for New Immigrants, which
contains practical information as well as an introduction
to the U.S. system of government.
Among the topics the new guide covers are:
rights and responsibilities, places to live, learning English,
how to obtain a social security number, permanent resident
status, job placement, education, and childcare. It also
lists agencies and organizations that provide documents
and services new immigrants may need.
The guide is available in English, Spanish,
Chinese and Vietnamese on the USCIS Web site. It will also
be published in Tagalog, Korean, Russian, Arabic, French,
Portuguese and Haitian Creole at a future date, USCIS says.
The USCIS has made other improvements in
an aim to deliver on President Bush’s vision of “welcoming
immigrants with open arms … not endless lines.”
In March, USCIS released a report to Congress
announcing a large reduction in the backlog for processing
immigration benefits such as work authorizations, permanent
residencies and naturalizations.
The backlog, which had reached a high of
3.8 million cases in January 2004, was cut to 1.5 million
cases by the end of September 2004. The USCIS also completed
a record number of cases, almost 2.2 million, in the fourth
quarter of 2004 while receiving close to 1.3 million new
cases during that time period, thus reducing the backlog
In 2004, a total of 946,142 persons became
legal permanent residents in the United States, according
to the Office of Immigration Statistics.