November 30, 2021
When I think about what it means to be an American and the promise this country has offered to generations of immigrants, including my own parents, I don’t have to look any farther than my name. My last name, Jaddou, reflects my dad’s Chaldean heritage. My middle name, Mendoza, honors my mom’s roots in Mexico. And my first name, Ur, is both an ancient Mesopotamian city and a perfect example of my dad’s penchant for picking two-letter names that some of my uniquely named cousins also know well.
My own family’s story shows the boundless possibilities that America offers to immigrants who seek to call this great nation home, for reasons such as family reunification, job opportunities, and to flee persecution and strife. As someone who has directly benefited from the openness and welcome of the United States, I am deeply honored to have the chance to give back to this country as the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
My dad came to the United States from Iraq in 1955, a bright-eyed foreign student with dreams of freedom, democracy, and opportunity. I always remember how my dad would send American flags to family and friends who naturalized, a small but significant gesture that carried with it his deep respect and love for this nation that he wanted to share with and impart on others.
In living out his dream, little did my dad know that he would also find love and marriage of almost 50 years to my beautiful mom from Mexico. She came to this country with an equally ambitious American dream. When they married in 1968, they could never have known that they would have a daughter who one day would become director of the very agency that naturalized them.
My parents’ experiences have influenced my career and my personal values—values such as welcoming the stranger, displaying integrity in all interactions, and serving the greater good. I see these values reflected in the Biden Administration’s immigration priorities, which include restoring faith in our legal immigration system, providing safe and orderly processing of asylum seekers, rebuilding and enhancing programs to resettle refugees, and strengthening our efforts to welcome and integrate new Americans, all while ensuring immigration is a driver of economic growth and stability.
Each day at USCIS, our agency is focused on upholding our nation’s highest ideals as a land of welcome and possibility for all. Our workforce seeks to administer America’s legal immigration system with integrity and to ensure our decisions are delivered fairly and efficiently. And we do this keeping in mind that all those we serve should be treated with respect and with humanity.
Our collective work is not just a job, it is a mission—one where our actions have a profound effect on people’s lives and the larger communities where they reside. This can be seen through the efforts of USCIS staff who volunteered to care for unaccompanied children at the southern border and those who answered the call to help process applications from our Afghan allies.
It’s an honor for me to fulfill my parents’ American dream and to personify their faith and values. I am proud to be the first Chaldean to serve as USCIS director. I know that what we accomplish will solidify the foundation that upholds our nation’s highest ideals for generations to come. Through this, we can continue to build on America’s promise as a nation of welcome and possibility.