DALLAS - Former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, hosted a naturalization ceremony for new United States citizens Monday morning.
Nearly 50 people took the Oath of Allegiance to the United States and received their certificates of naturalization at the George W. Bush Institute at Southern Methodist University.
The citizen candidates knew the ceremony was going to be at the Bush Center, but they had no idea the former president and Mrs. Bush would be there to welcome them and celebrate their new citizenship.
The issues of immigration reform and border security were top of mind as the former president and Laura welcomed 49 "candidate citizens" from 22 countries at the naturalization ceremony.
“Hard work, strong values, dreams and determination know no borders or boundaries,” Mrs. Bush said. “They are as universal as a human desire for a better future.”
“May we never forget that immigration is a blessing and a strength,” Mr. Bush said. “Public debate on the matter can get pretty sharp. That's not exclusive to this issue or these times.”
There were also words of encouragement in a recorded video message from President Donald Trump, who just three days ago made border security the focus of his first presidential veto with Congress divided on his national emergency declaration and border wall funding.
Former President Bush also advocated for comprehensive immigration reform and stronger borders.
“Borders are not arbitrary, and they need to be respected along with the fine men and women of the immigration services and the border patrol,” he said. “Immigration statutes, likewise, reflect the will of the people and the Congress and must be enforced."
As the new citizens took their oath of allegiance, the Bush family greeted each and every one of them.
“Meeting him today is a dream come true because I never expected to meet him,” said Felix Odeh from Nigeria. “Meeting him today is a wonderful experience, and I promise you I will never forget get this experience.”
After 27 years and pressure from her children and grandchildren, Caroline Enth also became an American citizen.
“You need to get out of our faces. Go join, and then and then you can vote. And then have a say,” she said. “That's the reason that I’m here.”
Former Canadian, Mary McCarthy, also waited 20 years to become a U.S. citizen.
“My daughters are American. My husband served in the Air Force,” she explained. “So it was definitely a decision that made life a heck of a lot easier.”
As new U.S. citizens, they now for the first time in their lives have a voice in this democracy and a vote, which Mr. Bush urged them not to take lightly.
“My hope is that you take the duties of citizenship seriously,” he said. “Participate and vote.”
Former President Bush also reminded the new citizens that they didn't just become Americans, but they also became Texans. He said if they walked out of there with a little more attitude, it just shows the culture has taken hold.