Less than a week after 187 new U.S. citizens were naturalized in a ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library on Election Day, the JFK Library Foundation hosted a reception and dinner recognizing the numerous contributions of immigrants to America.
On Saturday evening, the JFKLF’s New Frontier Network held a panel discussion by a trio of immigrants: former “Saturday Night Live” star Horatio Sanz, who was born in Chile and recently naturalized; “Black Panther” and “The Good Place” actor Bambadjan Bamba, who emigrated from the Ivory Coast and is a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient; and founder of the New American Leaders foundation Sayu Bhojwani, who was born in India, grew up in Belize, and is also a naturalized citizen.
Prior to the discussion, Khizr Khan, an immigrant from Pakistan whose son, Humayun, was killed while serving in the U.S. Army during the Iraq war, gave a speech in honor of Veterans Day with his wife of 45 years, Ghazala, in the audience. Khan is perhaps best known for speaking at the 2016 Democratic convention and asking then-candidate Donald Trump, “Have you even read the United States Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy,” as he held his pocket Constitution in the air.
On Saturday, Khan spoke about reading all 1,238 words of the Declaration of Independence while studying at Harvard Law School. He noted the seventh grievance against King George III for “obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners” in an attempt to “prevent the population of these States.”
“Our forefathers had foreseen what immigrants bring to a society, bring to this nation,” Khan said. “And we have continued to bring that spirit to the United States.”
Following the speech and a dinner, Sanz, Bamba, and Bhojwani spoke about the country’s immigration policies and their own experiences as immigrants in a discussion moderated by Shane Cahill, the Consul General of Ireland in Boston.
Bamba, whose family fled political instability in the Ivory Coast and settled in New York City in the early ’90s, said he didn’t find out he was an undocumented immigrant until he was a teenager. He added that after around 20 years of his family waiting for their asylum request to be granted, he was over the age of 21 and married, and ineligible for a green card. But in 2012, the DACA program allowed Bamba to keep working in the U.S. legally.
“Thank God for the DACA program that Obama signed in 2012,” Bamba said. “I am able to be here and to work and to continue to pursue my dream.”