21 immigrants will become U.S. citizens in a naturalization ceremony to be hosted by President Joe Biden at the White House on Friday, the Associated Press (AP) reports. It’ll be one of 170 naturalization ceremonies U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) plans to hold throughout the Independence Day weekend and into next week.
“Throughout all these ceremonies, USCIS will honor and recognize the commitment and contributions immigrants make to our Nation,” the agency said, “including military members, front-line workers, and COVID-19 heroes who have played a critical role in helping our country respond to and recover from the COVID-19 global pandemic.”
“USCIS reaffirms its commitment to making the naturalization process accessible to all who are eligible,” the agency continued, noting, among a number of recent actions, its reinstatement of the 2008 naturalization test. The previous administration had infamously implemented a version of the test designed to trip up applicants. Questions had taken “on a subtle political stance,” one expert said. It’s since been tossed by the Biden administration.
The AP further reports that President Biden will reportedly use the White House ceremony to continue pressing on Congress to pass a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrant youth, farmworkers, and immigrants with temporary protection from deportation. That’ll come as there’s been growing momentum for including citizenship for some immigrants in the upcoming reconciliation package.
“Beyond the significant economic benefits, there is a strong precedent for the inclusion of legalization in a budget reconciliation package,” the Center for American Progress (CAP) said, citing 2005 legislation passed by a Republican-controlled Senate. “And while the immigration provisions were ultimately stripped from the package during a conference process with the House-passed version of the bill, the fact that the Senate proposed and passed these provisions in the first place is illustrative.” It’s unclear if the president will make a public push for this, but he has reportedly done so privately, top legislators have said.
USCIS said that in addition to the White House naturalization ceremony, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas this past week hosted a remote naturalization ceremony for 22 deployed U.S. military members.
Both the Biden and Mayorkas ceremonies stand in contrast to probably the most infamous naturalization ceremony in our nation’s history, staged by the previous administration last year for the 2020 Republican National Convention. (Because who else could manage to make a naturalization ceremony infamous?) Following that event, a number of immigrants said they had no idea it would be broadcast as part of the convention. They also said they found out only moments before they were sworn in as U.S. citizens by unlawfully appointed Chad Wolf that the previous president would also be there.
“Thousands of Americans across the country saw this stunt and asked, ‘isn’t there a law against this?’ The answer is yes, there is, the Hatch Act,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said at the time.
Anyway, USCIS said it expects more than 9,000 immigrants to be sworn in as U.S. citizens throughout next week. “These ceremonies demonstrate our commitment to welcoming immigrants,” the agency said. “USCIS is proud to welcome people from all over the world as our newest U.S. citizens during this celebration of Independence Day.” Congratulations to all in the next coming days—and let’s make sure our undocumented communities can soon get their chance to become American on paper too.