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From USCIS Director León Rodríguez: The Freedom to Dream

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Hello Beacon readers!

On Aug. 28, I had the privilege of swearing in 30 new American citizens at a special naturalization ceremony at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington. Exactly 51 years earlier, on Aug. 28, 1963, at the nearby Lincoln Memorial, Dr. King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech to an estimated 250,000 people in one of the largest civil rights rallies in U.S. history. The “March on Washington” is credited with helping lead to passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

USCIS Director León Rodríguez welcomed 30 new citizens during a naturalization ceremony at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on August 28.  Joining Director Rodríguez were USCIS Chief of Staff Juliet K. Choi, District Director Sarah Taylor and NPS Director Jon Jarvis.

The African-American civil rights leader – who would be slain five years later – spoke of the rights that our nation’s founders set down in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Dr. King spoke of his dream of a nation where people from all races, nationalities, and beliefs could live together peacefully with equal rights. Most importantly, he expressed the belief that this nation, despite its history of slavery, could achieve that dream, calling it “deeply rooted in the American dream.”

Half a century later, standing at the memorial to Dr. King, it was my honor to administer the Oath of Allegiance to new citizens from 28 countries. When asked what becoming a U.S. citizen meant to him, one of those new citizens had earlier responded: “One day, because of this day, I might watch my child assume the highest office in the land, or achieve greatness in whichever way they see fit, because that is what this country does for people. It gives them the freedom to dream.” 

As a child of immigrants who fled oppression in Cuba and became U.S. citizens, I know that my parents, the owners of a small business, are still pursuing the American dream five decades later. They found freedom by coming to a country that guarantees the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This freedom is what still leads so many new citizens, and those who aspire to be U.S. citizens, to believe that this is the country that will help them achieve their dreams.

León Rodríguez
USCIS Director