Of the 16 youngsters featured in the Feb. 24 photo essay "Home, Sweet New Home" on our newest citizens, at least seven were Muslims. America has long welcomed as citizens individuals of all religions and ethnicities, making our nation one of the most welcoming in the world. And most have contributed immensely to our social and economic development.
However, it was troubling to see one young girl, Shifa Jahan from Bangladesh, wearing a full-face mask while being sworn in as a U.S. citizen. With only her eyes visible, how can we verify her identity? How can an individual who is dressed in attire that is not only unacceptable in mainstream America but is uncommon even in her native Bangladesh claim to share the values of Americans? Does she plan to attend school dressed in such attire? Does she plan to obtain a driver's license without showing her face? Will she ever consider herself an American?
For citizenship in the United States to mean something, a knowledge of and commitment to American values and acceptance of basic social norms is a must. The granting of citizenship to every individual born in this country, regardless of the status of their parents, must stop. In addition, it's time we followed France's lead and banned the use of full head scarves -- it's necessary to keep Americans safe.
As Congress prepares to pass historic immigration reform, we need to think: What does it mean to be a citizen of the United States? We need to think of the rights and privileges citizenship grants and pass legislation that makes sense.