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United States Welcomes New Citizens During July 4 Ceremonies

U.S. agency creates guide for new immigrants, reduces processing backlog

Posted: June 30, 2005

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 birthday.

“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 first time.”

“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 even more.

In 2004, a total of 946,142 persons became legal permanent residents in the United States, according to the Office of Immigration Statistics.



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