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Immigrants Are America

by Katherine Vargas of the National Immigration Forum

To help us celebrate the 4th of July, here is a compilation of quotes by and about immigrants.

The bosom of America is open to receive not only the Opulent and respectable Stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations And Religions; whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges, if by decency and propriety of conduct they appear to merit the enjoyment. -- George Washington

We came to America, either ourselves or in the persons of our ancestors, to better the ideals of men, to make them see finer things than they had seen before, to get rid of the things that divide and to make sure of the things that unite. -- Woodrow Wilson

Whether one traces his Americanism back three centuries to the Mayflower, or three years to the steerage, is not half so important as whether his Americanism of today is real and genuine. No matter by what various crafts we came here, we are all now in the same boat.
-- Calvin Coolidge

Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.
-- Franklin D. Roosevelt

Everywhere immigrants have enriched and strengthened the fabric of American life.
-- John F. Kennedy

I received a letter just before I left office from a man. I don’t know why he chose to write it, but I’m glad he did. He wrote that you can go to live in France, but you can’t become a Frenchman. You can go to live in Germany or Italy, but you can’t become a German, an Italian. He went through Turkey, Greece, Japan and other countries. But he said anyone, from any corner of the world, can come to live in the United States and become an American.
-- Ronald Reagan

Nearly all Americans have ancestors who braved the oceans—liberty-loving risk takers in search of an ideal—the largest voluntary migrations in recorded history. Across the Pacific, across the Atlantic, they came from every point on the compass—many passing beneath the Statue of Liberty—with fear and vision, with sorrow and adventure, fleeing tyranny or terror, seeking haven, and all seeking hope…Immigration is not just a link to America’s past; it’s also a bridge to America’s future. -- George H. W. Bush

More than any other nation on Earth, America has constantly drawn strength and spirit from wave after wave of immigrants. In each generation, they have proved to be the most restless, the most adventurous, the most innovative, the most industrious of people. Bearing different memories, honoring different heritages, they have strengthened our economy, enriched our culture, renewed our promise of freedom and opportunity for all....
-- Bill Clinton

It says something about our country that people around the world are willing to leave their homes and leave their families and risk everything to come to America. Their talent and hard work and love of freedom have helped make America the leader of the world. And our generation will ensure that America remains a beacon of liberty and the most hope fill society this world has ever known. -- George W. Bush

I'm troubled by [the immigration debate]. When [my family] came from England during the war, people said, "You are welcome here. What can we do to help?" I am a beneficiary of the American people's generosity, and I hope we can have comprehensive immigration legislation that allows this country to continue to be enriched by those who were not born here.
-- Madeline Albright

Our attitude toward immigration reflects our faith in the American ideal. We have always believed it possible for men and women who start at the bottom to rise as far as their talent and energy allow. Neither race nor place of birth should affect their chances.
-- Robert F. Kennedy

The United States should be "an asylum for the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty.” -- Thomas Paine

I’ve always argued that this country has benefited immensely from the fact that we draw people from all over the world. -- Alan Greenspan

Immigrant families have integrated themselves into our communities, establishing deep roots. Whenever they have settled, they have made lasting contributions to the economic vitality and diversity of our communities and our nation. Our economy depends on these hard-working, taxpaying workers. They have assisted America in its economic boom.
-- Senator Edward M. Kennedy

When you enlisted into the armed forces you swore to support and defend a Constitution that did not yet fully apply to you. You chose to endure the same sacrifices as your fellow comrades in arms to preserve the freedom of a land that was not yet fully yours. You accepted that you might have to pay the ultimate price on behalf of a nation to which you did not fully belong. Now, you will officially become citizens of the United States, a country to which each of you has already borne true faith and allegiance in your hearts and your deeds.
-- Gen. Petraeus addressing a naturalization ceremony for 161 at Camp Victory, Iraq, on Independence Day, 2007

They were willing to fight for a country that they weren't even citizens of. I wish all Americans felt that way about their country.
-- Capt. Kirk Thorsteinson during a naturalization ceremony in Kuwait, June 2007

"Dear America, I am an Arab American, but a proud American just like you (…) On that dreadful day, September 11th, my duffel bag was already packed and I was waiting to answer the call of duty. Why was I ready? I also want a better and safer America just like you. When it comes to patriotism and loyalty, I am red, white and blue, just like you."
--- Sergeant Mahmoud El-Yousef in an open letter to American news outlets, February 2007

…I felt I had an obligation to serve the country that helped give my family a new life. It was my way of thanking America
-- U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant Jamal S. Baadani, a native of Egypt and founder of the Association of Patriotic Arab Americans

I choose the citizenship because I believe what the Americans believe, their value system, their freedoms -- Army Chaplain Jin Hee Chang, a native of South Korea

You who have been born in America, I wish I could make you understand what it is like [to] not be an American – [to] not have been an American all your life -- and then, suddenly, with the words of a man in flowing robes to be one, for that moment and forever after. One moment you belong with your fathers to a million dead yesterdays -- the next you belong with America to a million unborn tomorrows
-- Naturalized American citizen George Magar Mardikian, a native of Armenia who was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Harry S Truman for his contributions to his adopted country

I'm glad to be in America and an American at the same time, that’s happiness. A country you can express yourself, you have freedom of speech and everything you want to do, and you can do it. It's wonderful.
-- Lilian Loro, Sudan refugee who is now a naturalized American citizen

I was once asked by a reporter why as a non-citizen of the United States, I volunteered to join the military and serve in Vietnam. I answered, "I was always an American in my heart.
-- Alfred Rascón, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient

About The Author

Katherine Vargas is the new Communications Associate at the National Immigration Forum. Prior to joining the Forum, Katherine conducted legislative research and ethnic media outreach at the National Immigration Law Center. Other experience in public policy advocacy organizations include the Washington Office of Latin America in Washington, DC, and immigrant and refugee service organizations such as the International Rescue Committee and the Colombian-American Service Association in Miami, Florida. Katherine was born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia. The National Immigration Forum was established in 1982, the National Immigration Forum is the nation's premier immigrants rights organization. The forum is dedicated to embraing and upholding America's tradition as a nation of immigrants. The Forum advocates and builds public support for public policies that welcome immigrants and refugees and are fair to and supportive of newcomers to our country.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.