In video, Biden thanks new US citizens for ‘choosing us’

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is thanking naturalized Americans for “choosing us” in his official video message to the nation’s newest citizens.

In the brief remarks, Biden references the “courage” of immigrants coming to the U.S. and his own heritage as a descendant of Irish immigrants. He also praises the contribution they will make to American society.

“First and foremost, I want to thank you for choosing us and believing that America is worthy of your aspirations,” Biden says in the video, calling the U.S. “this great nation of immigrants.”

“You all have one thing in common — courage,” Biden says in the video, released on Monday. “The courage it takes to sacrifice and make this journey. The courage to leave your homes, your lives, your loved ones, and come to a nation that is more than just a place but rather an idea. An idea that where everyone is created equal and deserves to be treated equally.”

Presidents typically record a message to be played at the end of naturalization ceremonies, moments after new citizens take the oath of allegiance. Those proceedings, though, have been abbreviated over the past year because of the coronavirus pandemic, and the video has been among the elements cut for time. The White House and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services released the video publicly so that it can be viewed by new citizens and the public from home.

It’s a tonal shift from former President Donald Trump, who released a video later in his first year in office that echoed his campaign rhetoric on teaching American values and heritage.

Biden says in his video that the new citizens have earned “a new title equal to that of an American president.”

“The title I’m most proud of, citizen, citizen of the United States of America,” he says.

The release comes as Biden’s immigration agenda has largely stalled since he sent Congress draft legislation in his first week in office, while he moves to prioritize COVID-19 relief and a push for a $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan this summer. Biden has also been slower to move than activists have wanted in lifting historically low Trump-era caps on refugee admissions for this year, despite pledging to swiftly raise them.

Zeke is AP’s chief White House correspondent