HIRC and Project Citizenship Urge Federal Court To Conduct Naturalization Oath Ceremonies for Massachusetts’ Aspiring Americans

This morning, Project Citizenship and the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program sent a letter to Chief Judge F. Dennis Saylor and Judge Rya W. Zobel of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts requesting that the Court begin taking steps to ensure that as many Massachusetts residents as possible are able to naturalize as U.S. citizens in a way that would protect the health and safety of all involved given the COVID-19 pandemic. Since naturalization oath ceremonies were suspended in March 2020, over 100,000 aspiring Americans (about 7,000 in Massachusetts) have been unable to naturalize.

Without intervention from the Court, these numbers will continue to rise and cause significant hardship. Many of these would-be U.S. citizens need to obtain important benefits, especially during the COVID-19 crisis, including to obtain much-needed Supplemental Security Income and unemployment benefits, to exercise their right to vote in upcoming elections, to obtain derivative citizenship for minor children and other family members, and to obtain the sense of security, belonging, and community that American citizenship provides. Indeed, estimates suggest that, in Massachusetts alone, 4,145 would-be U.S. citizens have already been denied the ability to vote, and that number will increase to 12,434 if oath ceremonies are not consistently conducted before the fall.

The letter requests that the Court take the following steps to ensure the timely naturalization of Massachusetts residents: (1) coordinate with USCIS to use videoconferencing technology to conduct remote naturalization oath ceremonies, (2) conduct as many in-person naturalization oath ceremonies as possible in accordance with the State of Massachusetts’ social distancing requirements, and/or (3) urge USCIS to waive the oath requirement and issue naturalization certificates in accordance with federal law.

You can read the full letter here.