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 TorresHouse Rules Committee approves remote voting during pandemic House Democrats push for virtual naturalization ceremonies in next coronavirus relief package House Democrats push for protections for health care workers in next aid package MORE (D-Calif), Lou CorreaJose (Lou) Luis CorreaHouse Democrats push for virtual naturalization ceremonies in next coronavirus relief package Federal employees push for COVID-19 protections in 'dangerous' workplaces Activists, analysts demand Congress consider immigrants in coronavirus package MORE (D-Calif.) and Adriano EspaillatAdriano de Jesus Espaillat CabralThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Pence visits Orlando as all 50 states reopen The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Mnuchin, Powell: Economy may need more boost; Trump defends malaria drug Democrats lobby Biden on VP choice MORE (D-N.Y.), to House leaders Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump retweets personal attacks on Clinton, Pelosi, Abrams Biden swipes at Trump: 'Presidency is about a lot more than tweeting from your golf cart' Federal aid to state and local governments should rely on real numbers MORE (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyTrump, GOP go all-in on anti-China strategy The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Mnuchin: More COVID-19 congressional action ahead GOP pulls support from California House candidate over 'unacceptable' social media posts 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.