Then, on the following Wednesday, I presided over a naturalization ceremony for adults. These adults had waited years, passed a test, and proven themselves to be of good moral character, and it was a pleasure and an inspiration to see them realize their dreams.
They appreciate the rights they are afforded as Americans and the opportunities which our nation offers, and they are eager to live up to all the responsibilities of being American. I spoke to them of the social contract that we all enter into as American citizens -- for each right and privilege we are given, there is a responsibility that is expected in return.
These people are part of America's proud history of immigration. Generation after generation, people have come to America from other countries to build their lives here. And it is no coincidence that, as so many immigrants have come through Ellis Island and Kennedy Airport to settle here, New York City has solidified its reputation as the most successful city in America. We have become so successful precisely because we have always given new immigrants the opportunity to thrive. We know that when immigrants come here and build their lives, they create strong, diverse, vibrant communities in which their children can grow.
Immigrants have done this in every generation. They have opened businesses, paid their taxes, and made our city rich both economically and culturally.
Citizens are granted full and equal status in the American community in every sense. When a resident becomes a citizen, he or she is as American as a descendant of someone who travelled here on the Mayflower hundreds of years ago.
Recently, however, in passing the new immigration laws, the United States Congress reminded us that citizens and legal residents can be treated quite differently under the law when it unfairly attempted to deny legal residents of many of the benefits to which they are entitled.
To protect as many legal immigrants as possible from the harmful effects of the congressional legislation, our administration responded with Citizenship NYC, a program which seeks to protect and enable immigrants through the process of naturalization.
Through a coordinated program, six Citizenship NYC field offices are now opening. These centers will conduct home visits and coordinate with other community-based organizations to focus their energies in allowing these vital members of our community to remain here without fear of being unjustly penalized because of their status.
The field offices are located in East Flatbush/Midwood and Sheepshead Bay/Brighton Beach in Brooklyn; on the Lower East Side and in Washington Heights in Manhattan; in Jackson Heights/Elmhurst in Queens, and in Kingsbridge in the Bronx. The Brooklyn offices will also serve Staten Island. For more information, call (212) 442-6009.
The immigrant experience has rejuvenated America time and again. Last week I was proud to continue that tradition. I cannot wait to see how these new citizens push even further, spread their energy, enthusiasm, and ideas across the city and the nation.
For more information see the Mayor's WINS Message and press release.