State Department official, best-selling author recognized as ‘Outstanding Americans by Choice’
WASHINGTON—Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute administered the Oath of Allegiance to 19 former refugees during a special naturalization ceremony at the Department of State (DOS) Thursday to commemorate World Refugee Day.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Alejandro Mayorkas and Deputy Secretary Lute presented Khaled Hosseini, author of the New York Times best-selling novel “The Kite Runner,” and Maria Otero, an undersecretary for the Department of State, “Outstanding American by Choice” recognitions for their significant contributions and achievements as naturalized U.S. citizens. Hosseini, a former asylee, and Otero also addressed the new citizens during the event.
Mayorkas, himself a former refugee, congratulated the citizens and spoke about the importance of U.S. refugee resettlement efforts. “Since World War II, more refugees have found permanent homes in the United States than in any other country,” he said. “The 19 former refugees who became new citizens today are testament not only to their own courage and desire for freedom, but to our officers’ dedication to the U.S. government’s humanitarian mission.”
Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns gave the keynote address. Denis McDonough, deputy national security advisor to the president, gave congratulatory remarks on behalf of the Administration and led the new citizens in the Pledge of Allegiance.
The new citizens hail from the following nine countries: Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ethiopia, Iran, Laos, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Thailand, and Vietnam.
More than 3 million refugees have resettled in the U.S. since 1975. Several organizations play a role in the refugee process – USCIS, DHS, DOS, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and the Department of Health and Human Services, among others. For more information regarding the refugee process, see theRefugee page on the USCIS website.