Naturalization Ceremony (copy)

Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald E. Bush speaks as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services welcomes 110 new U.S. citizens during a naturalization ceremony at the Nampa Civic Center, Monday, Sept. 23, 2019.

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BOISE — The closure of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offices nationwide has led to a standstill for many immigrants involved in the citizenship process. Though the Boise office is not set to open until June 4, it has begun hosting naturalization ceremonies for people who are one step away from becoming citizens.

A USCIS spokesperson said the suspension of most in-person services, including interviews and naturalization ceremonies due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, has been extended until at least June 3, but the agency in limited situations is conducting small, in-person naturalization ceremonies before offices reopen to the public, with social distancing measures in place.

The Boise field office is hosting five ceremonies until June 4, when the office is expected to reopen.

The office held one ceremony on Thursday.

Victor Constantino, an interpreter with the International Rescue Committee in Boise, accompanied a client to the ceremony at the Boise USCIS office on Thursday.

Constantino said the USCIS office only allowed up to eight people present in a room for the ceremony at a time. He said when it was time for his client to participate, she was there with only one other person.

“If I could take a guess, I think we spent 10 minutes inside,” Constantino said. “It was very easy and quick.”

Typically, USCIS does a ceremony every month and there are hundreds of people involved in the ceremonies and their families there to watch.

Constantino said no families were allowed in, just the clients and an interpreter if need be.

USCIS said applicants for citizenship will get a notice from the field offices about rescheduling a naturalization ceremony.

“The ceremonies may be shorter to limit exposure to those in attendance,” agency representative, Debbie Cannon said in an email. “Instead of playing videos during naturalization ceremonies, attendees will receive a flyer with information and links directing them to the videos on the USCIS website. Under the shortened format, all legally required portions of the ceremony will take place. Attendance will be limited to the naturalization candidate and individuals who provide disability accommodations.”

To participate in the ceremonies, everyone involved must not show symptoms of sickness, must not have had contact with anyone with a positive coronavirus case, and must not be under instructions from public health officials to self-quarantine.

Rachel Spacek is the Latino Affairs and Canyon County reporter for the Idaho Press. You can reach her at rspacek@idahopress.com.

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