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Lawmakers Call for Virtual Naturalization to Welcome New American Citizens

May 6, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Norma J. Torres (CA-35), Co-Chair of the New American Caucus and the only Central American serving in Congress, along with fellow New American Caucus Co-Chair, Rep. Adriano Espaillat (NY-13) and Rep. Lou Correa (CA-46), led 28 lawmakers  in requesting of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Keven McCarthy that the next COVID-19 funding package require U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) to provide remote oath ceremonies during this pandemic and any future declared national emergency that impedes the regular administration of naturalization ceremonies.


Prior to the pandemic, USCIS naturalized an average 66,000 individuals per month. Currently, more than 100,000 aspiring citizens with approved naturalization applications cannot complete the final step to become a citizen without risking exposure to COVID-19.


Key excerpt:


In mandating virtual oath ceremonies, USCIS could immediately complete the naturalization of more than one hundred thousand individuals, leading to numerous social and economic benefits.  With increased access to civic and economic opportunities, naturalized citizens make us a stronger and more resilient nation.  Now more than ever, we must do everything we can to support those who are mere steps away from obtaining citizenship, particularly as we look towards the future.


The lawmakers released the following statements:


“Virtual naturalization would provide vital benefits to more than 100,000 people who are already approved to become our fellow citizens,” Rep. Torres said. “It would also ensure this nation, built and made prosperous by immigrants, continues that rich heritage despite the challenges of COVID-19. With no associated cost, there is no reason why we shouldn’t take this step to maintain the fabric of our society and support families across the country.”


“The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to put on hold live naturalization ceremonies and final interviews for around 126,000 immigrants, the final steps in the long process of becoming an American citizen,” Rep. Espaillat said. “This delay in the naturalization process means hundreds of thousands of hardworking, soon-to-be citizens cannot fully contribute to a recovering American economy, may be made ineligible for critical assistance, and are at risk of missing deadlines to express their newly-earned right to vote in our elections. I am proud to join my colleagues in the New Americans Caucus in urging USCIS to begin holding remote naturalization ceremonies, which would allow these immigrants to fully participate fully in civic and economic life as our nation fights to defeat this pandemic.


“America is a country made by immigrants,” Rep. Correa said. “For the thousands of soon-to-be-Americans, the naturalization ceremony is a moment of great pride and inclusion. These hardworking, law-abiding, and tax-paying immigrants have earned the right to stand up and pledge allegiance to our Nation, and proclaim their love for our great country. USCIS must find a way to keep these ceremonies alive.”


The lawmakers’ letter is available here.


The letter is signed by 31 lawmakers in total:

U.S. Representatives Norma J.  Torres (CA-35), Adriano Espaillat, Correa (NY-13), Lou Correa (CA-46), Ami Bera (CA-07), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Cheri Bustos (IL-17), Tony Cardenas (CA-29), Juaquin Castro (TX-20), Judy Chu (CA-27), Sylvia Garcia (TX-29), Jesus (Chuy) Garcia (Il-04), Jahana Hayes (CT-05), Kendra Horn (OK-05), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-02), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Jim McGovern (MA-02), Jerry McNerney (CA-09), Grace Meng (NY-06), Gwen Moore (WI-04), Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (FL-26), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Max Rose (NY-11), Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (Mariana Islands), Darren Soto (FL-09), Jackie Speier (CA-14), Greg Stanton (AZ-09), Dina Titus (NV-01), Nydia Velazquez (NY-07), and Frederica Wilson (FL-26)


The letter is endorsed by 86 organizations:

Asian American Federation of Florida, Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC), Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-LA, Asian Counseling and Referral Service, Asian Law Alliance, Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center, Asian Pacific Development Center [Colorado], Bonding Against Adversity [Houston], Boundless Immigration, Boulder Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Immigration Justice Task Force, Canal Alliance [San Rafael, CA], CASA [MD, DC, VA], Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington [DC], Catholic Legal Services, Inc., Archdiocese of Miami, Causa Oregon, Central American Resource Center of California (CARECEN LA), Central American Resource Center of DC (CARECEN DC), Central Valley Immigrant Integration Collaborative (CVIIC), Chaldean Community Foundation [Michigan], Chinese Information and Service Center (CISC), Citizenship News, Citizenshipworks, Coalition for Humane Immigrants Rights (CHIRLA) [Los Angeles], CUNY Citizenship Now!, East Bay Sanctuary Covenant [Berkeley, CA], Entre Hermanos [Seattle], Esperanza Immigration Legal Services [Philadelphia], Esperanza Legal Assistance Center/ Immigrant Connection at Heritage Church [Moline, IL], Filipino Advocates for Justice [Oakland, CA], Florida Asian Services, Florida Asian Women Alliance, Florida Chinese Federation, Florida Immigrant Coalition, Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (GALEO), GMHC [New York], HIAS Pennsylvania, Horn Of Africa Services [Seattle], Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Immigration Advocates Network, Immigration Institute of the Bay Area, Immigration Resource Center of San Gabriel Valley, IMPRINT, Interfaith Refugee & Immigration Service [Los Angeles], International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit , International Rescue Committee, Jewish Family and Children’s Services, JOB (Justice Overcoming Boundaries), Kids in Need of Defense, Korean Community Center of the East Bay, Korean Community Services, Korean Resource Center, Latin American Coalition [Charlotte, NC], Make the Road New York, Mexican American Opportunity Foundation (MAOF), Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, Mujeres Latinas en Accion [Chicago], Muslim Women Resource Center, NALEO Educational Fund, NANAY CEDC [Florida], National Immigration Forum, National Partnership for New Americans, New York Immigration Coalition, Niskanen Center, North Carolina Asian Americans Together, OCA-Greater Houston, OCA South Florida Chapter, OneAmerica [Washington State], Orange County Communities, Organized for Responsible Development, Promise Arizona, Proyecto Vida Digna [South Texas], Refugee Women’s Alliance, Self-Help for the Elderly, Service Employees International Union, SIREN (Services, Immigrant Rights & Education Network), South Asian Network, Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, The Education and Leadership Foundation [Fresno, CA], TODEC Legal Center [California], UnidosUS, West African Community Council [Washington State], World Education Services, World Relief