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Justice Ginsburg swears in, inspires new U.S. citizens

Ruth Bader Ginsburg referenced her family's immigrant roots to inspire 201 new U.S. citizens from 59 countries as they took their oath.
Image: United States Citizenship Ceremony with Justice Ginsberg
More than 200 new citizens from 59 different countries recite the U.S. Oath of Allegiance during a naturalization ceremony, presided over by Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg at the New York Historical Society in New York on Tuesday. Justin Lane / EPA

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg welcomed a new batch of American citizens on Tuesday to a country divided over immigration issues.

Ginsburg, 85, the daughter of a Russian immigrant father, administered the oath of allegiance to 201 newly minted citizens hailing from 59 countries, and inspired them with a speech about her own family's experience as a "testament to our nation's promise."

"Today, you join more than 20 million current citizens who were born in other lands, who chose as you have to make the United States of America their home," Ginsburg told those gathered for the citizenship ceremony at the New-York Historical Society.

"We are a nation made strong by people like you. People who have traveled long distances, overcome great obstacles, and made tremendous sacrifices, all to provide a better life for themselves and their families."

The Brooklyn-born Ginsburg then told the crowd about her own family's immigration to the United States: her father arriving from Russia as a 13-year-old "with no fortune and speaking no English"; her mother born four months after her family arrived at Ellis Island from Poland.

"As testament to our nation's promise, the daughter and granddaughter of these immigrants sits on the highest court in the land and proudly will administer the oath of citizenship to you," she said.

Those words moved some of her newest fellow Americans.

"I felt so important," Mamadou Alpha Diallo, 25, who emigrated from Guinea, told the New York Daily News after hearing Ginsburg's speech. "Sitting in front of somebody so special, I felt so special. I feel like I'm in my own country now."

Ginsburg encouraged the new citizens to use their right to vote in November.

A June 2017 Gallup poll found that Americans are split as to whether to keep current legal immigration levels (38 percent), decrease them (35 percent), or increase them (24 percent). The Trump administration, of which Ginsburg has been a vocal critic, has come down with a hard-line stance on immigration policies such as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children to avoid deportation for two years. That policy was instituted by the previous White House.