U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland swore in 200 new American citizens from Ellis Island’s Great Hall on Saturday morning, signaling a strong show of support from the Biden administration as New York City contends with an influx of migrants testing its resolve to provide a safe haven for all who seek it.

Hundreds of would-be citizens raised their right hands as the attorney general led them through the oath of allegiance.

"Just now, each of you took an oath of allegiance to the United States," he said. "In so doing, you took your place alongside generations who came before you, many through this very building, seeking protection, freedom, and opportunity."

“This country — your country — wholeheartedly welcomes you,” Garland said.

An emotional Garland spoke of his family’s own journey to American citizenship, which was marred along the way by the atrocities of the Holocaust.

The ceremony on Ellis Island seemed to affirm the city’s long history as a haven for immigrants to the U.S. – which many New Yorkers are fighting to preserve amid growing political tensions surrounding an influx of migrants.

“It feels like a dream,” said Kaltrina Povataj, minutes after she became an American citizen. Povataj came to the U.S. from Albania to be with “the love of her life,” to whom she is now married. “You really don’t know how to describe it,” she said.

The symbolism of welcoming scores of new citizens at New York’s historic port of entry comes at a critical moment for the city’s relationship with immigrants. A deluge of asylum seekers and migrants, many of them from South and Central America, have been transported by Republican governors from border states like Texas to liberal strongholds like New York City, creating a political firestorm.

The city’s safety net has begun to fray, ushering in tensions rooted in an identity crisis for many New Yorkers who take pride in the city’s reputation as a fortress for the vulnerable. Dozens of migrants have been turned away from city shelters in recent weeks, and Mayor Eric Adams’ commitment to upholding the city’s long-standing “right to shelter” has been called into question.

Eric Kutscher (left) and his husband, Lala Tanmoy "Tom" Das (right). Das was among the 200 new American citizens sworn in on Saturday morning.

Lala Tanmoy "Tom" Das was among those who became a citizen on Saturday. The Manhattan medical student traveled to Ellis Island with his husband, Eric Kutscher, who giddily watched as Das recited the words that would let the U.S. government formally recognize him as a citizen.

“I’m just so proud,” Kutscher said after the ceremony.

Das and Kutscher, who were married at New York City Hall in 2016, said they had talked about this moment for years. Das, who came from India when he was 18, said he was excited to register to vote. With citizenship, Das said, came “closure” after his long journey toward officially becoming an American.

“There was a lot of uncertainty at all points, so coming to this stage feels relieving,” Das said.

As for celebratory plans? The couple planned to have lunch in Chinatown and have Indian food for dinner. Tomorrow they planned on having a South African dinner. “This is America, and this is America’s strength,” Das said. “And, you know — we love food.”

Hundreds of would-be citizens raised their right hands as U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland led them through the oath of allegiance on Sept. 17, 2022.