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House Democrats push for virtual naturalization ceremonies in next coronavirus relief package

House Democrats push for virtual naturalization ceremonies in next coronavirus relief package
© Greg Nash

A group of House Democrats is asking party leaders to include provisions in the next coronavirus relief package that allow U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) to continue naturalization ceremonies virtually.

In a letter led by Reps. Norma TorresNorma Judith TorresDemocrats point fingers on whether Capitol rioters had inside help It's past time to be rid of the legacy of Jesse Helms Hispanic Caucus asks for Department of Labor meeting on COVID in meatpacking plants MORE (D-Calif), Lou CorreaJose (Lou) Luis CorreaRep. Lou Correa tests positive for COVID-19 An attack on America that's divided Congress — and a nation FAA: No more warnings for unruly passengers on flights MORE (D-Calif.) and Adriano EspaillatAdriano de Jesus Espaillat CabralLawmakers remember actress Cicely Tyson Over 40 lawmakers sign letter urging Merrick Garland to prioritize abolishing death penalty The Hill's Morning Report - Biden asks Congress to expand largest relief response in U.S. history MORE (D-N.Y.), to House leaders Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Democrats deals to bolster support for relief bill | Biden tries to keep Democrats together | Retailers fear a return of the mask wars Here's who Biden is now considering for budget chief Biden urges Democrats to advocate for rescue package MORE (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyHouse passes voting rights and elections reform bill Parliamentarian strikes down Pelosi priority in aid package Democrats snipe on policy, GOP brawls over Trump MORE (D-Calif.), the lawmakers said that USCIS canceled naturalization ceremonies from March 18 until at least June 4, leading to a backlog of more than 100,000 soon-to-be citizens awaiting the chance to take the formal oath. 

“Given the uncertain nature of the pandemic, it is unclear when in-person naturalization oath ceremonies can resume and whether USCIS will be able to reschedule these ceremonies in a timely fashion when it is safe to do so,” they wrote.

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“As you consider the next COVID-19 relief package, we therefore urge you to include a provision that empowers USCIS to conduct secure remote naturalization oath ceremonies,” they added. 

House lawmakers are mulling another $1 trillion stimulus package that seeks to deliver aid to state and local governments while amping up safety net programs.

The lawmakers argue that creating a system of remote naturalizations provides “long-term flexibility to the agency far beyond the duration of the pandemic” and could result in an economic boost for the country after the pandemic has lead to record rates of unemployment. 

“Beyond this, naturalized citizens earn 44% more in annual employment income than their immigrant counterparts; income which contributes to the economic success of our communities, including through increased tax revenue which will be even more critical in the coming years,” the lawmakers argued.