Honoring Immigrants on Citizenship Day
September 17 2012
Today, we know Salma Hayek as a gorgeous and glamorous Latina actress in Hollywood, one who has been nominated for the Oscar for Best Actress and has gone on to produce and direct her own films and television shows. Among her other successes, though, is another achievement many aspire to, not just the hopefuls of Hollywood—United States citizenship. Born in Veracruz, Mexico, Salma Hayek became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 2004. This famous Latina has become an icon in American culture and worldwide. She fights for immigrant rights and has publicly opposed Arizona’s SB 1070. Today, she represents a greater population aspiring to citizenship, and her story is one many can admire. She is a prime example of how the United States of America is enriched by its diversity and immigrant population.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) defines naturalization as “the process by which U.S. citizenship is granted to a foreign citizen or national after he or she fulfills the requirements established by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).” Naturalization is more than a change in status, though—it’s an official confirmation of belonging to this country. Naturalized immigrants are finally lawfully recognized as belonging to a nation that they have strived and yearned to be a part of throughout a long and enduring process—a process that involves substantial paperwork and documentation, an interview, an exam of United States government and history, a hefty fee, and a long period of hopeful yet cautious anticipation.
The achievement of citizenship allows one to vote and fight for their beliefs as a citizen. It gives individuals a voice in our country and allows them to help shape its future. Before, they might have been in a state of limbo—neither a complete outsider nor a citizen with full rights and responsibilities to the nation. “More than anything, it’s that your vote is counted now,” says Gina Bonura, a Colombian immigrant who lives in Bristow, Virginia. “You feel you were a part of [this country] before you became a citizen [but] you were not counted…Now you are.”
This ultimate accomplishment of becoming a citizen sanctions and confirms the identity and sense of belonging to the United States of America. It is a powerful journey that ensures our full potential to achieve the American Dream, as citizens.
At NCLR, we believe that the immigrant population strengthens the vibrancy of this country as an economic power and icon of diversity, and that naturalization is the critical last step that new Americans take in order to participate fully in our nation’s civic life.
On Citizenship Day, September 17, the United States of America recognizes the adoption of the United States Constitution and new citizens of the nation. We commemorate this day by releasing a short video in honor of new and aspiring citizens of the United States of America. We would also like to congratulate those who have achieved citizenship and commend those who remain on the enduring and powerful journey towards naturalization.
In the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, “As long as I live, I will never forget that day 21 years ago when I raised my hand and took the oath of citizenship. Do you know how proud I was? I was so proud that I walked around with an American flag around my shoulders all day long.”
For more resources on citizenship, the naturalization process, and other aspects of United States immigration services, please see www.nclr.org and www.uscis.gov.
Issues: Policy and Legislation Details, Immigration Stories
Geography:California, Far West, Midwest, Northeast, Southeast, Texas