Attorney General Merrick Garland addressed the urgent” need to overcome the “intense polarization in America” in an impassioned and at times emotional speech on Saturday. Garland calls on Americans to overcome polarization in emotional Ellis Island speech:

Garland delivered his remarks after administering the oath of allegiance to 200 new U.S. citizens at a naturalization ceremony on Ellis Island in New York.


“We must not allow the fractures between us to fracture our democracy,” Garland said. “We are all in this together. We are all Americans.”

In the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, Garland choked back tears as he reflected on his own family’s immigration story, and the religious persecution that led some of his relatives to seek refuge on Ellis Island early in the 20th century.

He shared the story of his grandmother, one of five children born to a Jewish family in what is now Belarus, who fled religious persecution during World War II. Only three of them made it to the United States, however, including his grandmother. The other two, he said, “were killed in the Holocaust.”

“If not for America, there is little doubt that the same would have happened to my grandmother,” Garland said, his voice quivering. “But this country took her in. And under the protection of our laws, she was able to live without fear of persecution.

“That protection,” he continued, “is what distinguishes America from so many other countries.”

This message, and the welcoming scene at Ellis Island, stood in stark contrast to those seen this week on Martha’s Vineyard, and outside Vice President Kamala Harris’s residence in Washington, D.C., where migrants (many of them Venezuelan asylum-seekers) found themselves in the middle of a bitter political fight between the Biden administration and Republican governors of Southern border states, who blame what they see as lax immigration policies for the record number of migrants apprehended along the Mexican border this year.

[G]arland, who typically refrains from engaging in politics, did not address [current DOJ investigations], but instead talked about the importance of the rule of law in upholding democracy.

“The rule of law means that the law treats each of us alike,” he said. “There is not one rule for friends, another for foes; one rule for the powerful, another for the powerless; one rule for the rich, another for the poor; or different rules, depending upon one’s race or ethnicity or country of origin.”

Saturday was the 235th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787, and the Ellis Island event kicked off a week of special naturalization ceremonies around the country orchestrated by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to celebrate “the connection between the Constitution and citizenship.”

Ahead of the ceremony, “America the Beautiful” played over speakers as citizenship candidates and their loved ones filtered into the Great Hall, where 12 million immigrants before them were once processed upon arriving in the United States. The 200 new citizens sworn in Saturday came from 57 different countries, including Albania, China, Dominican Republic, Ghana, Japan, Lebanon, Moldova, Nepal, Pakistan and Venezuela.