September 17th was this year’s annual “Citizenship Day,” when we celebrate the day on which our Founding Fathers signed the Constitution on September 17, 1787, and a day to recognize and celebrate those seeking to become U.S. citizens. September 17-23 is also broadly recognized as “Citizenship Week,” when agencies, community organizers, attorneys, and future citizens come together to assist people on their pathway to citizenship, and, as USCIS states, to encourage Americans to reflect on the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and what it means to be a U.S. citizen.
In normal times you can find citizenship workshops filled to the brim, with major community organizers bringing in volunteers from the area to assist people in filling out their N-400 applications to naturalize and people lined up out the door ready to take the next step towards citizenship. Some major organizations that deserve credit for this massive undertaking include Mi Familia Vota, the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, Catholic Charities, Lutheran Family Services, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and more. They help hundreds of people on their path to citizenship every year.
This year has been everything but normal, and yet these organizations have used their ingenuity and determination to help to keep Citizenship Day and Citizenship Week a time where the community comes together to help people along on their path to citizenship. Virtual citizenship workshops, using technology to access people ready to take the next step, were in full swing this week, and at this time next year there may be many new Americans as a result of these virtual workshops. USCIS, for its part, has made citizenship a major priority, conducting same-day naturalization ceremonies so those with approved applications can become citizens the same day they are approved. People walk in to the USCIS building as Lawful Permanent Residents and leave holding miniature flags and Certificates of Naturalization. A truly bright spot for an organization that has been the subject of so much negativity in recent years.
As for yours truly, when I reflect on the rights and responsibilities, the duties and obligations, and benefits and burdens of U.S. citizenship it isn’t jury duty, paying taxes, or voting that best embodies what it means to be a U.S. citizen, but rather communities coming together to help lift each other up. At the end of this unique, and indeed difficult, Citizenship Week, I challenge every reader to take the time for their own reflection.
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