NJTV News

NJ residents become citizens as immigration debate continues in Washington

Federal Judge Michael Shipp administered the oath and 32 people from 18 countries became U.S. citizens.

Joe Vieira emigrated to New Jersey with his parents from Portugal in 1974. His dad, Antonio, recently passed away. Vieira decided to become a citizen.

“I’m just proud, for him and for me,” he said.

A couple originally from Pakistan hesitated to give their names, but said they “feel relieved,” and remain worried about others who have yet to gain citizenship.

That’s something New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal understood. As a child of immigrants, Grewal talked about the heated emotions surrounding immigration reform.

“It’s certainly not easy today when you see more acts of violence being perpetrated against individuals because of where they come from, because of their immigration status, because they’re “Dreamers” … And there are certainly days when I’m sure it feels to many of you that the American dream no longer exists. That dream is, in fact, alive and well in this country,” said Grewal.

Grewal noted New Jersey’s joined a lawsuit to preserve protections for so-called “Dreamers” brought to New Jersey by their parents. The latest bipartisan compromise from Sens. John McCain and Christopher Coons offers citizenship to participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, but no money for a border wall.

“So this is a bill that I think should be our base bill. I don’t think we should do anything less than what’s in McCain-Coons. And it’s my hope that in the next few days of negotiating, we will do something more,” said Coons in a press call on Monday.

But the president dismissed that idea.

“We’re building the wall, or a lot of other things aren’t going to happen. And the ones that don’t want security at the southern border or any other border are the Democrats,” said President Donald Trump.

“Donald Trump should put the tweeting aside and roll up his sleeves and show us he’s the great deal maker he says he is,” said Sen. Cory Booker.

Booker spoke at Monday’s naturalization ceremony. Last year, 37,449 people in New Jersey became U.S. citizens. But DACA expires March 5, and the continuing budget resolution to which it’s been politically hogtied expires 12:01 a.m. on Friday.

On if he would you see the government shut down over this, Booker said, “I’m the kind of person that says, sometimes you need to precipitate a crisis in order to get people to comply.”

“I think we all followed our dream. It would be wrong to say nobody should be allowed to follow their dreams. But the rest is all the government’s decision,” said one newly minted U.S. citizen, who preferred for her name not to be used.

So for 32 people, the path to citizenship ended in joy on Monday. But for millions more, that path depends on Congress being able to find a compromise.