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Trump Welcomes Immigrants to America in Citizenship Message

  • Associated Press

Alfonso Perez, of the Dominican Republic, cheers at the start of a naturalization ceremony for 755 new United States citizens at Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves baseball team in Atlanta, Sept. 16, 2016.

President Donald Trump has issued a videotaped message that was shown to thousands of new U.S. citizens Wednesday in which he welcomes the immigrants to the "American family" and urges them to help other newcomers assimilate.

Some of the 4,000 people at a ceremony in Los Angeles embraced the message of unity, while others said the words felt insincere coming from the man who has ordered a travel ban and cast Mexican immigrants in a negative light.

Moises Rodriguez, a 28-year-old disc jockey from Mexico, said he agrees with the message and supports Trump's tough stance on illegal immigration.

However, 21-year-old college student Kevin Alvarado, who is from Nicaragua, said the remarks don't mesh with Trump's previous comments on immigration.

Such messages are a key part of naturalization ceremonies. Former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush also produced video messages for use during the events.

The tone and message of Trump's talk were highly anticipated given his aggressive stance on immigration that has included travel bans from Muslim-majority countries, ending a program shielding nearly 800,000 young immigrants from deportation, and comments referring to Mexican immigrants as rapists.

In the message, Trump welcomes citizens and tells them they should teach American values to others and "help newcomers assimilate to our way of life."

"Our history is now your history. And our traditions are now your traditions," he said.

The speeches by Bush and Obama also mentioned the values of American citizenship. But Trump's remarks struck a different tone.

"His message seems to be much more, 'You need to fold yourself into the American fabric of American citizenship,' " said Jason Edwards, a professor of communication at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts. "There is not a message about the journey of immigrants."

Rodriguez thought the video was great.

"The fact that it was very important that we educate the people that are coming here to assimilate to what is the American dream -- I thought that was very important," he said.

Other new citizens said it sounded scripted.

"You look at the track of others things he's said and you don't feel like he's a genuine person to want to welcome new citizens," Alvarado said.

Trump's video comes as more immigrants are applying to become American citizens.

More than a million people filed applications for citizenship in the year ending in March, up 23 percent from a year earlier, according to statistics from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Legal service organizations that assist immigrants with the process say they saw a surge in interest after the president issued executive orders on immigration.

Immigrants who want to become U.S. citizens generally must have been legal permanent residents of the United States for at least three years, show good moral character and pass English and civics tests that cover topics such as the founding fathers, Constitution and presidency.

Sarah Thompson, a 42-year-old software product manager from Canada, said she filed her application to naturalize the day after Trump's election. She said his aggressive stance on immigration made her want to shore up her standing in this country -- and it didn't seem to match the videotaped remarks played at the Los Angeles ceremony.

"It didn't seem sincere to me given how he has conducted himself during his presidency so far," Thompson said after becoming a U.S. citizen.

President Donald Trump's message

My dear fellow American: It is with great pride that I welcome you into the American family. No matter where you come from, or what faith you practice, this country is now your country. Our history is now your history. And our traditions are now your traditions. You enjoy the full rights, and the sacred duties, that come with American citizenship _ very, very special. There is no higher honor, there is no greater responsibility. You now share the obligation to teach our values to others, to help newcomers assimilate to our way of life, and uplift America by living according to its highest ideals of self-governance and its highest standards. All Americans are your brothers and sisters. And each of us must do our part to keep America safe, strong and free. America is our home, we have no other. You have pledged allegiance to America. And when you give your love and loyalty to America, she returns her love and loyalty to you. We share one American heart _ and one American destiny. It is a destiny filled with love, opportunity and hope. We celebrate this day. We welcome you into our national family. We applaud your devotion to America. And we embrace the wonderful future we will have together. Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.

WATCH: Former President Barack Obama's message

It's an honor and a privilege to call you a fellow citizen of the United States of America. This is now officially your country. Your home to protect, to defend, and to serve through active and engaged citizenship. Together, we are a nation united not by any one culture, or ethnicity, or ideology but by the principles of opportunity, equality and liberty that are enshrined in our founding documents. Today marks a very special day in your life. You've traveled a long path to get here. You've sworn a solemn oath to this country and now have all the rights of citizenship. With the privilege of citizenship, though, come great responsibilities. And so I ask that you use your freedoms and your talents to contribute to the good of our nation and the world. Always remember that in America no dream is impossible. Like the millions of immigrants who have come before you, you have the opportunity to enrich this country through your contributions to civic society, business, culture and your community. You can help write the next great chapter in our American story. And together we can keep the beacon that is America burning bright for all the world to see. I am proud to welcome you as a new citizen of this country. May God bless you, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

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