Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg used her first public address since breaking three ribs last month to praise immigrants, saying that they play a “vital part” in cleansing the “stains” of discrimination from the country.
Ginsburg spoke at a naturalization ceremony at the National Archives for 31 new citizens hailing from 26 countries on Friday. Her remarks sharply contrasted with the President’s efforts to curtail the number of immigrants entering the United States.
Standing before the original copy of the Constitution, Ginsburg acknowledged that many people, including women, people of color and Native Americans, had not always had equal access to their Constitutional rights, but that new immigrants can help to build a better future.
“The Constitution sets out the aspiration to form a more perfect union,” Ginsburg said. “While we have made huge progress, the work of perfection is far from done. Many stains remain.”
She noted that immigrants have historically been on the “vanguard” of the fight to combat discrimination, including the effort to abolish slavery.
Ginsburg also valorized the efforts of immigrants who worked hard to make their way to the country.
“We are a nation made strong by people like you: people who travelled long distances, overcame great obstacles and made tremendous sacrifices, all to provide a better life for themselves and their families,” Ginsburg said.
She noted that 20 million Americans are naturalized citizens— and that in the United States, “the founders of the U.S. proclaimed that the heart of America would be its citizens, not its rulers.”
Ginsburg noted that she is herself the daughter and granddaughter of immigrants, acknowledging the ideal that the United States can be the “land of opportunity” for all citizens.
“What is the difference between a bookkeeper in New York City’s garment district and a Supreme Court Justice?” she asked. “One generation—my own life bears witness. The difference between the opportunities available to my mother and those afforded me.”
Watch her full remarks below: