Jul 2, 2021 - Podcasts

New citizens on the year ahead

Today, President Biden will participate in a longstanding presidential tradition: a naturalization ceremony welcoming new U.S. citizens, ahead of the July 4 holiday. Those who’ve most recently become citizens did so at a remarkable time: 2020 and 2021 have featured a pandemic, a racial reckoning, and an election unlike any other. We hear reflections from four new Americans.

  • Plus, takeaways and surprises from the Supreme Court.
  • And, why some progressives are bypassing Bernie Sanders.

Guests: Axios' Sam Baker and Alexi McCammond.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Dan Bobkoff, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Sabeena Singhani, Amy Pedulla, Naomi Shavin, and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected].

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MARGARET TALEV: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s July 2nd.

I’m Margaret Talev, managing editor for politics at Axios -- in today for Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what you need to know today: takeaways and surprises from the Supreme Court. Plus, why some progressives are passing Bernie Sanders by.

But first, how it feels to become a U.S. citizen now… is today’s One Big Thing.

The U.S. will welcome 9,400 new citizens in ceremonies between June 30 and July 7. And today President Biden will participate in the longstanding tradition of holding a naturalization ceremony at the White House - ahead of the July 4th holiday.

Those who’ve most recently become citizens are of course doing so at a pretty remarkable time: 2020 and 2021 have included a pandemic, a racial reckoning, an election unlike any other. As we head into this holiday weekend, we asked new citizens to reflect on what it means to become an American today.

SANJANA: Hi, I'm Sanjana and I became a citizen in July of 2020. Becoming a citizen during the pandemic felt like a relief, but it was also incredibly somber because it was right in the middle of the pandemic, I wasn't allowed to bring anyone inside with me.

I think what's worrisome is that even though we're citizens today, we're always going to feel like we don't belong because of all the hate crimes and violence that are happening, that we see happening in the media.

SOFIA DELGADO: Hi, my name is Sofia Delgado. I'm based in Atlanta, Georgia. I was naturalized a month ago and this just means the world to me. What can I tell you? I got lucky. I work in immigration with amazing people. Yes, there’s bad situations out there, but I can assure you that around there's people that will love you, support you, accept you and help you in your journey.

CINDY NAVA: Hello, my name is Cindy Nava and I am a dreamer and former DACA recipient from the state of New Mexico. This past February 22nd, I finally was able to take my citizenship exam. I went in there, you know, praying and being hopeful that I would pass it and I did.

There was this huge sense of relief. But also at the same time, there is a huge amount of guilt that is felt because many of my immediate family members do not yet, have not yet had that opportunity. Actually, none of them have so it's a mixture of feelings.

BEATRIZ PANIEGO-BEJAR: Hello, my name is Beatriz Paniego-Bejar. I know that the opportunities that I have had in this country, I wouldn't have had them in Spain. When I participated in last year's Black Lives Matter protests, it just felt that I was being part of something bigger than myself. Something that was also transcending to the rest of the world. So, yes, this country is not perfect. No country is. But I am proud to be an American citizen, a U.S. citizen.

MARGARET: We’ll be back in 15 seconds with the biggest stories out of this SCOTUS term.


MARGARET: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Margaret Talev.

After a string of high-profile rulings, the Supreme Court finished its term yesterday. Here with his takeaways from this SCOTUS term is our favorite Supreme Court expert, Sam Baker. He's also senior editor here at Axios. Good morning, Sam.

SAM BAKER: Good morning, Margaret.

MARGARET: Let's start with one of their final opinions of this term - this one on voting restrictions in Arizona. Why do we need to know about this case?

SAM: There were two questions for the court in this case: A couple of specific changes that Arizona made, were they okay or not? The court said both of them were fine, but then the real reason this case matters is it's a signal of how the court is going to treat these cases going forward.

What they said between the lines was it's going to be pretty hard to successfully challenge these sorts of voting restrictions in court, which has implications in Georgia, that has implications in Texas. And it's going to have implications in red states and purple states all across the country for years to come.

MARGARET: This Arizona ruling’s a big one, but there've been a lot of really interesting rulings in this most recent session of the court. What were some of those other big ones?

SAM: There was another case a couple of weeks ago, out of Philadelphia that the city of Philadelphia had tried to cut off ties with a foster care agency that wouldn't work with same-sex couples. The court said that was a violation of the First Amendment. And then the other interesting one is a cheerleader who said some nasty things about her school cheer squad on social media got suspended and the court said, “No, she has the right to curse about cheer on her private social media.” So, a First Amendment win for students there.

MARGARET: We've watched this most recent session of the court through the lens of the Trump majority. Former president Trump got three justices on the Supreme Court, creating a clear six to three majority. But actually the conservatives have been somewhat divided in their decisions and that has made the full court somewhat less divided than we assume they'd be. What have you learned about John Roberts, his role as the chief justice and about all of those Trump justices in their early time on the bench so far?

SAM: There has been a lot of, sort of weird splintering, but not really on the result. It's all sort of around the edges. The overall direction that the law is going in is still extremely clear. It's going there pretty fast. When you have that many conservatives, they can kind of afford to be a little ticky tack about this particular legal point or fine piece of reasoning. But at the end of the day, they're all on the same page.

MARGARET: Sam Baker, thanks so much. Happy Fourth.

SAM: Thanks, Margaret. You too.

MARGARET: The progressive wing of the Democratic party seems to be entering a new phase where some are starting to move away from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. That's what some progressives are telling our national politics reporter Alexi McCammond, who's just rejoined us here at Axios. Hi Alexi, and let me be among the first to say welcome back.

ALEXI MCCAMMOND: Hey Margaret. Thanks so much for having me.

MARGARET: So Senator Sanders literally led the revolution for progressives in the last two presidential elections. Why is this happening?

ALEXI: As you mentioned, Margaret, the progressive movement is in a new phase where they're really focused on not just changing the conversation around policies, as they think they have around things like healthcare and the minimum wage and climate change, but really enacting this legislation now, getting these things passed into law, and getting candidates actually into Congress so they have more folks to vote with them. And they think they have a stronger theory of the case when they're leaning on policies and not personalities.

MARGARET: There's a pretty interesting race this year, in this off year, for a special election to fill a Congressional seat in Ohio. And it involves one of Bernie Sanders's closest best known advisers from his presidential runs.. Doesn't it?

ALEXI: Yeah. That's right. Nina Turner is one of over ten Democrats who are running to fill this seat that was once held by Marcia Fudge in the Cleveland area. She's crisscrossed the country selling this liberal policy agenda. But now that she's running in her own Congressional race in Ohio, she's not leaning on or leading with her endorsement from Sanders or her relationship with him. Although she told me by phone, when we spoke this week, that her and Senator Sanders are still very close and they have a close relationship that they've forged over many years, but the big thing too, Margaret, is she knows that in her district, those folks voted overwhelmingly for Joe Biden in 2020. So she has to walk this interesting line where she's selling the Bernie Sanders agenda without billing herself as a Bernie Sanders candidate.

MARGARET: So Biden wants unity. Sanders wants unity. There's a wing of the progressives who want the fight. What does this say about where the movement is now, and where do you think it's going?

ALEXI: I think they know that in order to get things done, you have to work with other folks across the Caucus, even if they're not fighting for the same things in the same way that you are. I think that we're seeing the progressive movement get a little bit more sophisticated on the inside in that way, but we're seeing this tension build with how the candidates that they're running are running their specific races compared to the realities of if they actually serve.

MARGARET: Alexi McCammond, national politics reporter for Axios. Thanks Alexi for joining us.

ALEXI: Thanks so much.

MARGARET: That’s all from us today! You can reach our team at podcasts at axios dot com or reach out to me on twitter. I’m Margaret Talev, Niala Boodhoo’s back with you next week - thanks for listening - and have a wonderful holiday weekend.

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