Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told 39 citizenship candidates on Wednesday that the United States is a country of “tremendous opportunity” and encouraged them to remove obstacles in order to make a difference and enjoy the country’s freedoms.
Mayorkas, a Cuban immigrant himself, administered the Oath of Allegiance to citizens of 21 different countries in Manhattan, participating in a naturalization ceremony for the first time since he became DHS secretary.
“This is a day of tremendous privilege for all of you, and it is a day of tremendous honor for all of us to have you as new citizens,” Mayorkas told the newly minted citizens. “This is really what makes our nation so great. All of you.”
Mayorkas acknowledged the United States has not always lived up to “our highest ideals” or stayed “true to our most fundamental values.” But he went on to say that his adapted country has never shied away from trying to live up to those ideals.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services kept the Homeland Security Secretary’s attendance a secret until just before the socially distanced ceremony. Lucrecia Borgonovo is from Argentina and was thrilled to learn Mayorkas was the special guest.
“It’s so amazing to have Alejandro be here. I mean, he’s definitely a symbol of immigration,” Borgonovo said.
Moran Mazig, came to the US from Israel for school and has two young daughters who were born in the US. Mazig was “happy” to be a citizen like her daughters.
“I love the freedom in this country. The opportunity, of course, there are challenges, but the morals of the country and the ideas behind the country, I ike them,” Mazig said after the ceremony. “I like the diversity that my daughter’s see in their schools and our city. So my life is here and I am very much an American.”
Benjamin Tischler from Vancouver, Canada, said becoming a citizen was a “huge relief.” He described it like a “weight” has been taken off us shoulders.
“I’ve lived in the United States since 2009 when I came to New York for my undergraduate degree. And I always have had that feeling of having a slightly look over my shoulder,” Tischler said. “And now I feel like I’m part of the country and I don’t need to do that anymore.”