PHILADELPHIA (AP):- Scores of people waiting to recite the oath of citizenship — the final step in the citizenship process — should be naturalised immediately so that they have time to register to vote this fall, immigrant rights groups argued in a lawsuit filed in Philadelphia federal court this week.
The Northwest Immigrant Rights Project and other groups filed the suit Wednesday on behalf of legal permanent residents whose applications for naturalisation have already been approved by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services’ field office in Philadelphia.
The organisations say their clients are among thousands nationwide who have had their oath ceremony cancelled or not scheduled due to the pandemic.
They argue that federal law allows the courts to expedite the naturalisation process during special circumstances.
The organisations say the courts should authorise “judicial oath ceremonies or immediate administrative naturalisation by USCIS” to assure that all approved candidates for naturalisation are sworn in by late September.
“US citizenship confers fundamental rights, including the rights to vote, to petition for family members to immigrate, and to access certain public programs and benefits,” said Trina Realmuto, executive director of the Massachusetts-based National Immigration Litigation Alliance, which is among the groups involved in the suit.
“This lawsuit asks the Court to order USCIS to prioritise conducting oath ceremonies, which had been stalled since mid-March, so that plaintiffs and proposed class members are not unduly and indefinitely denied these important rights.”
USCIS declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.
The agency recently began conducting naturalisation ceremonies in small groups, but immigrant rights groups complain its not moving fast enough to get through the backlog of would-be citizens in time for election season.
Registration deadlines for primary elections are approaching in a number of states this summer, and would-be voters must be citizens when they register or risk facing criminal charges or even deportation.
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