Posts Tagged ‘Citizenship’

DC welcomes 636 new citizens

636 unpronounceable names, raised in unison

636 people swearing all at once!

The Honorable Eleanor Holmes Norton, Gordon Peterson from WJLA, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the League of Women Voters, the US Citizenship and Immigration Service, WAMU, and about a thousand other people were on hand today to witness the swearing in of 636 new U.S. citizens in the District of Columbia.

This ceremony normally takes place in a courtroom and is a small affair with perhaps 80 or 100 people.  But then ICE doubled the fee to apply in July 2007, resulting in a bulge in the system and a huge backlog for DC.  In an effort to catch up, a megaceremony — the largest ever, according to the presiding Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth — was held today in Room 146 at the Washington Convention Center.

It was gleefully disorganized, though the federal marshals did an outstanding job keeping order in the crowd of people, kids, a zillion cameras and half a zillion little American flags provided by the DAR.  Hearing the clerks practice their pronunciation skills on 636 names from 104 different countries was also quite a treat.

There was a bit of controversy, too, when Ms. Norton observed that new citizens in Maryland and Virginia are sworn in by a member of the state administration as soon as they pass their exam.  DC, on the other hand, “likes to have a judge preside”, and has traditionally only scheduled the swearings in on the first Tuesday of the month (according to a clerk I talked with in September).  What this means is that at least 636 people applied in June 2007 and passed their exams a year later — yet could not vote in the November 2008 elections.  Ms. Norton promised to look into the issue.

I know that 636 votes in DC couldn’t swing an election, but I know every one of those people would have cast a ballot.  Including my newly-minted, and very dear, husband.

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