Denny Chin Encourages Naturalization

Denny Chin addressing new citizens at a recent naturalization ceremony. (Photo via World Journal)

Denny Chin addressing new citizens at a recent naturalization ceremony. (Photo via World Journal)

“My grandfather was a waiter. My father was a cook. And I am the first Chinese-American judge in a U.S. circuit court,” said Denny Chin, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, at a naturalization ceremony for young immigrants held Dec. 23 at the Museum of Food and Drink in Brooklyn.

In his keynote speech at the event, Chin talked about his own family’s history of immigration and new immigrants’ efforts toward fulfilling their American dream. He told the audience, most of whom were new and young immigrants, that “when it comes to naturalization, the earlier the better.”

The 62-year-old Chin is from an immigrant family from Toishan and was nominated by President Obama to the federal appeals court (in 2009). He and his wife Kathy Hirata Chin, an accomplished attorney, were named a “New York power couple” this year by Crain’s, joining a list that also includes Bill and Hillary Clinton. Chin attributed his achievements today to the road paved by the hardworking older generations of his family.

“My grandfather was born in China in 1896. In 1916, exactly a hundred years ago, he came to the U.S. to look for a better life. He only returned twice to China since then. The first time was in 1920 when he went back to marry my grandmother. The other time was when my father was born,” said Chin. “Due to the law at that time (Chinese Exclusion Act), my grandfather was not allowed to bring his family from China to the U.S. So he had to come back alone and sent the money he saved back to China to support the family. Only when he managed to purchase documents from a Chinese American to become their ‘paper son’ and was naturalized in 1947, was my father allowed to come to the U.S. to join him.”

In 1956, when Chin was 2, his parents brought him and his two siblings to the U.S. The five of them settled in New York where Chin’s father worked as a cook in a Chinese restaurant in Chinatown and his mother in a garment factory. “Their English was very limited but they worked hard to raise me to become the first Chinese-American judge in a U.S. circuit court,” said Chin.

Talking about immigration policies under the Trump administration, Chin said there could be changes so eligible immigrants should apply for naturalization as soon as possible. “Citizenship does not only come with the right to vote, it can also protect you from being deported, which even a green card cannot completely guarantee,” said Chin. “So the best thing you can do is to become a citizen as soon as you can. The parents who are here today, you’ve made a wise decision for your children.”

Chin also told the newly naturalized youths: “You may be too young to understand the hardship the older generations have been through. I want you to understand that now you enjoy more rights and benefits, and you also have more duties and responsibility on your shoulders. You should remember to thank your parents and grandparents for their sacrifice. You should study hard to fulfill your dreams. Thus, the future of the United States will be better because of you.”

Nineteen young immigrants aged 5 to 15 were sworn in as new citizens at the ceremony. Their applications were filed by their parents for them.

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