United States President Joe Biden watches as people take the oath of allegiance during a naturalization ceremony for new citizens ahead of Independence Day in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC on July 2, 2021.
Almond Ngan | AFP | Getty Images
President Joe Biden hosted a citizenship ceremony Friday to swear in and welcome 21 new U.S. citizens ahead of Independence Day.
“It is the dreams of immigrants like you that build America and continue to bring new energy, vitality and strength,” said Biden at the ceremony in the East Room of the White House.
The President was attended by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who told the story of his immigrant parents’ journey to the United States as refugees.
“Our country is also better today because you have strengthened its identity and structure as an immigrant nation,” said Mayorkas after the new citizens were sworn in.
Tracy Renaud, the acting director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, conducted the swearing-in ceremony. USCIS announced Thursday that it would hold 170 naturalization ceremonies in the first week of July.
The jubilant ceremony at the White House belied the challenge the Biden administration is facing to contain the ongoing migrant crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border.
The president came on with the promise to pursue a more humane and orderly immigration policy than his predecessor, former President Donald Trump.
At Friday’s ceremony, Biden commended the immigrants for their contribution to the country, noting that many were serving in the military or as health and frontline workers during the pandemic.
The president also presented an award to Sandra Lindsay, a Long Island nurse who immigrated to the United States from Jamaica at the age of 18.
Lindsay was the first person in America to be fully vaccinated outside of clinical trials, Biden said. Her scrubs will be part of a future exhibit on Covid at the Smithsonian Institution, he added.
“Since our nation was founded, the basic idea in America has been nurtured and driven by the contributions and sacrifices of so many people, almost all of whom were immigrants,” said Biden.
The President also took the opportunity to pay tribute to his government’s efforts to reform the immigration system.
He stressed his support for the Immigration Reform Bill tabled by the Democrats in February, which includes improved border management and security, as well as a route to citizenship for 11 million undocumented people in America.
He also praised Vice President Kamala Harris’ efforts to identify the “root causes” of the recent surge in Central American migrants on the US-Mexico border.
Harris visited the southern border earlier this month but was criticized by Republicans for not going there earlier.
At the heart of the wave of migrants was an unprecedented increase in the number of unaccompanied minors arrested at the border and placed in pre-trial detention by the US government while suitable guardians were found.
But that number has steadily declined since it peaked in March this year. As of Tuesday, 14,400 unaccompanied minors were in the custody of the U.S. government, a 35% decrease from two months ago when the Department of Health and Welfare hosted more than 22,000 minors.
Democrats and pro-immigrant activists urge Biden to further reduce border enforcement and do more to ensure humane treatment of migrant children and families on the southern border.