Citizenship Day has been celebrated in some form since 1940, when Congress designated
the third Sunday in May as “I Am an American Day.” The week of September
17 was selected as Constitution Week to commemorate the events of September 17,
1787 when the United States Constitution was signed by 39 delegates from 12 states
at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Citizenship Day
itself has its roots in President Woodrow Wilson's efforts in 1915, where as part
of what he called National Americanization Day, the President himself, cabinet
members, administration officials as well as prominent public figures such as
Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, gave speeches at naturalization ceremonies
throughout the nation. Later in 1952, President Harry Truman signed a bill formalizing
the celebration of Citizenship Day on September 17.
The week beginning September 17 is Constitution Week. Each year the President
signs a proclamation declaring September 17 as Citizenship Day and the start of
Constitution Week and calls upon all citizens of the United States to rededicate
themselves to their country and the principles upon which it was founded.
Celebrating a Nation of Immigrants
Citizenship, whether by birth or naturalization, is the cornerstone of America’s
values and ideals. Each year, hundreds of thousands of immigrants complete the
naturalization process and participate in naturalization ceremonies across the
country. These naturalization ceremonies are conducted by a federal court or by
a local U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office, and may involve
a handful of people or several thousand. Regardless of the ceremony’s size
or venue, the applicants for naturalization share a common experience as they
take the Oath of Allegiance, declaring their fidelity and allegiance to the United
States, its Constitution and laws. U.S. citizenship represents a commitment to
the shared civic values that unite all Americans. USCIS is charged with promoting
instruction and training about citizenship rights and responsibilities and the
development of educational materials for immigrants interested in becoming citizens.
In supporting and promoting civic education for our immigrants, USCIS provides
new immigrants and future citizens with the foundation needed to embrace the common
civic values that continue to make the United States a nation united in diversity.
The average annual number of persons naturalizing increased from less than 120,000
during the 1950s and 1960s to 210,000 during the 1980s, 500,000 during the 1990s
and to 625,000 during 2000 to 2006.
2000-2007: More than 4.5 million individuals have been naturalized
during the new millennium. From October 2005 to September 2006 (fiscal year 2006)
more than 700,000 individuals became United States citizens. USCIS has naturalized
more than 33,750 members of the U.S. Armed Forces since September 2001.
1991-2000: In 1996, naturalizations peaked at more than one million,
for a total of 1,044,689. The late 1990s also marked another shift in naturalization
demographics, with Mexico yielding the most naturalized citizens, followed by
Vietnam and the Philippines.
1981-1990: Almost 2.3 million people were naturalized during
the 1980s. Nearly half that number hailed from Asia. Together, Canada and Mexico
accounted for more than one quarter of the remaining new citizens.
1971-1980: The United States welcomed almost 1.5 million new
citizens during the 1970s. The Philippines, Cuba and China were the leading countries
of origin. This trend represented a shift from the 1960s, when the largest number
of new citizens came from Europe. Some 66,000 members of the U.S. military were
naturalized during this decade.