We’ve reached a milestone since the inception of our Citizenship Program in 2001, with a total of more than 10,000 1199SEIU members having become U.S. citizens. On Friday, January 29, about 200 of last year’s 739 new citizens attended the program’s 14th Annual “Celebration of Our New Citizens” at Fund Headquarters. The new citizens proudly showcased traditional clothing from their native countries, which included Jamaica, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Honduras and dozens more.
Deborah King, Executive Director of the Training and Employment Funds, welcomed the new citizens and their families before commending them for their perseverance to achieve such a meaningful goal. Later, Estela Vazquez, an Executive Vice President at the Union, led the new citizens in the Activist Pledge, which highlights the benefits and the responsibilities of citizenship. Mitra Behroozi, Executive Director of the Benefit and Pension Funds, also congratulated the new citizens on their achievement and encouraged them to be active participants in civic affairs. In the evening’s keynote address, Gerry Hudson, Executive Vice President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), spoke of one of the SEIU’s core missions: to help defend immigrants’ rights and sow the threads of a multi-cultural nation. To hasten that goal, Gerry urged the new citizens to head to the polls and make their voices heard in the fall elections.
Three of the celebrants — one from the National Benefit Fund, one from the Greater New York Benefit Fund and one from the Home Care Benefit Fund — also spoke about their personal journeys to become U.S. citizens. Suyapa Garcia Diaz, a home care worker originally from Honduras, told everyone in attendance that she fully intends to exercise her right to vote in the upcoming presidential election. “My vote will make a difference,” she said.
Please join us in congratulating these 1199SEIU members on earning their U.S. citizenship!