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Aguilar addresses immigration

Jen Rowling | Friday, November 12, 2004

Alfonso Aguilar, Chief of the Office of Citizenship and Notre Dame graduate, lectured Thursday on “Building a Common Civic Identity.”

In the past three years, one million green cards were distributed and at least a half million naturalizations conducted, Aguilar explained. Large numbers have migrated from Asia, Latin America and Africa to the United States.

Aguilar said that his position as Chief of Citizenship within the Department of Homeland Security involves promoting civic principles and increasing awareness of the privileges and responsibilities of being an American citizen.

“We are a nation of immigrants,” Aguilar said.

He said that America must learn how to successfully incorporate immigrants into society. “We are a nation not based on religion, culture, but civic principles, we need to integrate immigrants into our civic culture, what unites us are civic principles,” Aguilar said.

According to Aguilar, immigrants should be invited to participate in the larger community to avoid marginalization.

Aguilar admitted biases exist, but said that the situation has improved over the past century.

“We have experience of incorporating people into of our nation,” Aguilar said.

The Office of Citizenship initiated new programs to assist immigrants in their transitions to American citizenship. Immigrants now receive a “Welcome to U.S.” guide, which contains information pertaining to healthcare, education and laws. Also, new seminars provide U.S. history and language assistance.

Aguilar called all citizens to welcome new immigrants and assist them in the transition to the American lifestyle.

“The federal government can not be solely responsible, we need to coordinate with the local, state, faith groups and colleges,” Aguilar said.