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Sameer Ahmed

  • Federal immigration office reopens

    June 4, 2020

    The Boston office of the federal immigration agency that deals with the country’s naturalization process reopened today, 11 weeks after shutting down most in-person services due to the coronavirus pandemic. A spokesperson said that USCIS is following the Trump administration’s three-phase guidelines for reopening the country as well as Department of Homeland Security and health officials’ policies and social distancing safety guidelines. The agency said employees will continue to telework whenever possible. In-person services will be limited to things like getting a passport stamped or scheduling oath ceremonies. No new naturalization requests will be accepted for now. USCIS is charged with processing immigrant visa petitions, naturalization, green card, asylum, and refugee applications. It also makes adjudicative decisions on those applications and manages immigration benefits, including employment authorization...Project Citizenship, an organization that works with immigrants seeking to become citizens, and the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program sent a letter today asking federal court judges in Boston to resume citizenship ceremonies. They said they’re concerned that the long wait has left some people ineligible to apply for benefits like unemployment, and has also prevented them voting. The organization is suggesting outdoor ceremonies, remote ceremonies, and even foregoing administration of the oath, with USCIS simply issuing naturalization certificates. “Our concern is that due to COVID-19 safety restrictions, USCIS will likely only be able to naturalize a handful of individuals at each ceremony, said Sameer Ahmed, clinical instructor at the Harvard program. “Given that the federal court previously held large-scale oath ceremonies for hundreds of individuals, we believe that the agency’s current effort will be unable to resolve the significant backlog in a timely manner.”