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Jax Daily Record Monday, Jul. 6, 202005:20 AM EST

The Marbut Report: New citizens sworn in despite COVID-19

Federal judges adapt to social distancing and administer oaths out of the courthouse.
by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

Beginning in March, safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 caused the Bryan Simpson U.S. Courthouse to limit the number of people coming into the building.

The monthly naturalization oath ceremonies presided over by district and magistrate judges of the United States District Court, Middle District of Florida, Jacksonville Division, were postponed.

As restrictions relating to the spread of COVID-19 eased, the court found a way to resume the judicial ceremonies.

In accordance with the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over a period of two weeks in June, federal judges went to the U.S. Customs and Immigration Jacksonville field office to preside over about 30 abbreviated open-air ceremonies.

They administered the oath of citizenship to small groups of applicants at each ceremony with the presiding judge, immigration personnel and applicants maintaining social distance. The typical ceremony at the courthouse would involve 50 people.

The judges swore in 291 applicants who had completed the requirements for citizenship except for taking the oath of citizenship.

The abbreviated ceremonies made it possible for the judges to improvise and accommodate special requirements while maintaining the safety of those participating in the ceremonies.

While social distancing and other safety guidelines prevented the families and guests of the new citizens from attending the ceremonies, U.S. Magistrate Judge James Klindt agreed to preside over a private ceremony for a husband and wife whose three children were waiting in their car, but who wanted to witness their parents become U.S. citizens. Klindt also swore in an applicant as she sat in her car. 

“Being sworn in as a United States citizen after meeting all the requirements for citizenship is an important, meaningful, and special occasion for these new citizens,” said U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan in a news release.

“These ceremonies also are meaningful occasions for the judges of the Jacksonville Division who recognize the effort and hard work required to become United States citizens. During this difficult time for our nation, it was inspiring to see the innovation and cooperation that made these abbreviated ceremonies possible.”  

In addition to Corrigan and Klindt, U.S. District Judges Marcia Morales Howard and Brian Davis and U.S. Magistrate Judges Patricia Barksdale and Joel Toomey also administered the oath of citizenship to qualified applicants.

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