Jeff Denham: Celebrating our nation with its newest citizens

July 3, 2014 

As we mark the 238th birthday of our great nation, we celebrate the liberty gained through the blood and sacrifice of those who came before us. We are a nation of immigrants, one nation under God, made up of individuals of all different backgrounds, nationalities and traditions. Together we are strengthened by our shared dedication to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

This week I had the opportunity to host the first naturalization ceremony in many years conducted in Modesto. With United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, I worked to help bring this special event here to recognize the wonderful commitment each new citizen makes to our great nation.

Tuesday, I met more than 100 new Americans from 17 different countries who together were swearing the oath of allegiance to the country we all love. As I watched them take the oath, I was awed by how much work each had done to get to that moment.

Years ago, I had the opportunity to help my father-in-law study for his own citizenship exam. Watching him pass was one of my proudest moments. Earning his citizenship was an honor for him, and seeing him take the oath of allegiance was an honor for my family.

It is easy to recognize the hard work that so many put in to earn citizenship each year, but we must also remember how many qualified, talented and bright individuals are still waiting to become citizens. Millions are struggling through an undeniably broken immigration system with too few work visas, too long a backlog and too many bureaucratic hurdles.

Forty percent of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants here today came here on visas that have since expired. These are our co-workers, our children’s classmates, our community members, who have come from Asia, Europe, Central America, South America, Canada, Mexico and countries all across the globe.

The nation we all know and love is the result of 238 years of immigration, and establishing laws to encourage those who want to come and contribute to the greatness of America is crucial.

Today in Congress we are challenged with fixing the flaws of our broken system. The current surge of unaccompanied minors streaming across our borders is the clearest evidence yet that border security must take top priority. We must also create a fair system that encourages all people to follow the rule of law. We must agree on a path forward for those who were brought here by family members as children through no fault of their own.

We have an opportunity to unite families and welcome those who yearn to live in a nation that celebrates the freedoms of religion, of speech and of the press.

We live in a republic like no other, where the people have a true voice in our future. As a former vice president once said, “America is much more than a geographical fact. It is a political and moral fact – the first community in which men set out in principle to institutionalize freedom, responsible government and human equality.”

Let us remember those principles as we celebrate Independence Day and remember our special place in the world as a nation of immigrants.

Denham, R-Turlock, represents the 10th Congressional District, which includes all of Stanislaus County and southern San Joaquin County.

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