Me, My Grandfather and Citizenship Day
My grandfather immigrated to the United States from China almost 100 years ago — on Nov. 16, 1916. Because of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and subsequent similar legislation, there was no open door to the American dream for him. He was able to enter only by buying a piece of paper representing that he was the son of a United States citizen.
将近100年前，我的祖父从中国移民到了美国——在1916年11月16日那一天。由于1882年的《排华法案》(Chinese Exclusion Act)和此后的类似立法，美国梦的大门并不向他敞开。他是在买了一份文件，证明自己是一名美国公民的儿子后，才得以入境的。
My grandfather worked as a waiter in Chinese restaurants in New York for many years. He returned to China only twice — once in the 1920s, when he married my grandmother, and once in the 1930s, when my father was born. Both times he left his family in China to return to the United States. He could not bring his wife or son with him, because of the immigration laws, but he could better support them here in America. He shared a railroad apartment in Chinatown with other Chinese men, and every month, like them, he would buy a money order at the post office and send it home to his family in China.
In 1947, something remarkable happened: My grandfather became an American citizen.
Today I see his journey from a special perspective. I am a federal judge, and like many of my judicial colleagues, I have been able to play a personal role in the process as immigrants from all around the world have become American citizens.
On Sept. 16, the federal courts and many Americans celebrate Constitution Day, which marks the signing of the United States Constitution in Philadelphia in 1787, and Citizenship Day, which celebrates the rights of all Americans. All across the country federal judges are swearing in new Americans.
Because we are also celebrating the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, many of these ceremonies will be held in national parks, including Ellis Island in New York, the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, and the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka, Kan. On Friday in Ellis Island’s Great Hall, hundreds of new Americans will swear to uphold our nation’s Constitution and to fulfill their obligations as citizens.
由于今年同时还是国家公园管理局(National Park Service)成立100周年，许多地方把仪式放在国家公园举行，其中有纽约州的埃利斯岛、华盛顿的林肯纪念堂以及堪萨斯州托皮卡的布朗诉教育局国家历史遗址(Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site)。周五，在埃利斯岛大会堂，数百名新美国人宣誓拥护我国宪法，履行其公民义务。
When my grandfather was naturalized as a citizen, he had been separated from my father for many years. But because he became a citizen, when the immigration laws were reformed in the 1950s, my grandfather was able to bring his family here. By then, my father was a young man in Hong Kong, with a family of his own. My parents and their three children — including me — were able to join my grandfather in America.
My parents spoke little English. My father worked as a cook in Chinese restaurants and my mother as a seamstress in garment factories. They understood the importance of education, and thus my siblings and I worked hard in school. My parents also appreciated the importance of citizenship, and they became naturalized in 1965. And because I was only 11 years old that year, I became an American citizen as well, by operation of law.
I was appointed a federal trial judge in 1994 and served in that capacity until I was elevated to the federal appellate court in 2010. I now sit in the magnificent Thurgood Marshall United States Court House in Lower Manhattan, in chambers once occupied by Justice Marshall himself when he was a judge on our court in the 1960s. I know that none of this would have happened if my grandfather and parents had not worked so hard for so long, had they not become United States citizens.
我在1994年受命成为一名联邦承审法官，此后一直担任此职，直到2010年升至联邦上诉庭。此刻我身在雄伟的下曼哈顿瑟古德·马歇尔联邦法院(Thurgood Marshall United States Court House)，我的办公室，正是马歇尔大法官本人曾经工作过的地方，他在上世纪60年代是这里的一名法官。我知道，如果没有祖父和父母的辛勤劳作，如果他们没有成为美国公民，这一切都是不可能的。
My grandfather’s naturalization certificate hangs on the wall in my chambers. On the back, it states that he was sworn in as a new citizen in “open court,” in the very courthouse, I believe, where I sit now.
One of the things I have missed since becoming an appellate judge is the naturalization ceremony. When I served as a Federal District Court judge, I performed the naturalization ceremony regularly. I would naturalize some 200 immigrants at a time, from dozens of countries around the world. And when I performed that ceremony, I would take my grandfather’s naturalization certificate into the courtroom, and I would show it to the new citizens and tell them the story of my grandfather.
When the ceremony was over, I would shake the hand of each new citizen. I was most inspired by the elderly, some hobbling, some wheelchair-bound, who still appreciated the importance of becoming an American citizen.
On this Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, I will be thinking of my grandfather and of the many new citizens I was privileged to swear in over the years, and of the principles of liberty, justice and equality that have made our country so great.