House Passes Bill That Would Allow Lawmakers To Swear In American Citizens

House passes bill that would allow lawmakers to swear in American citizens

By Jordy Yager
The Hill (Washington, D.C.), September 15, 2010

The House on Wednesday passed a bill that would allow lawmakers to swear in new U.S. citizens.

The bipartisan measure, introduced by Rep. Jos Serrano (D-N.Y.), passed by a majority vote and now goes to the Senate for consideration. The bill would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act and give members of Congress, delegates and resident commissioners the power to administer the American oath of allegiance to people who have passed through the U.S. naturalization process.

The legislation would not alter any of the details surrounding naturalization requirements as outlined and enforced by the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Currently, the attorney general and designated immigration judges are the only authorities allowed to administer the oath to incoming U.S. citizens.

A woman in Serranos Bronx district asked him several years ago if he would swear her in as a new U.S. citizen. He soon realized that lawmakers werent allowed to give the oath.

'For me the idea to partake in something like this, which is such a joyous occasion, is so special,' said Serrano in an interview with The Hill.

Serrano said that the measure would strengthen the bond that new citizens have with the American government by personalizing their relationship with their member of Congress. Serrano added that he wasnt concerned that the participation of lawmakers in the ceremony would alter the political views of the new citizens.

Initially, some Republicans were wary about various sections of the bill, so Serrano modified it to stipulate that lawmakers cannot administer the oath of allegiance in a naturalization ceremony if it falls within 90 days of an election, he said.

Other provisions in the bill prevent members who are set to administer the oath from choosing the timing or the place of the ceremony. All of the details surrounding the timing and planning of the ceremony will continue to be coordinated by the attorney generals office, and lawmakers may only give the oath at ceremonies in their own district.

If the measure gets signed into law, Serrano hopes it will make smaller, more intimate naturalization ceremonies more common, in addition to the large ceremonies such as the one held in Boston earlier this week where more than 5,000 people became U.S. citizens.

Republicans who have backed the measure include Reps. Mary Bono Mack (Calif.), Dan Burton (Ind.), Ron Paul (Texas), Phil Gingrey (Ga.) and Don Young (Alaska).

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), a cosponsor of the measure, told The Hill that his office has facilitated with the citizenship application of more than 50,000 people over the past 18 years, and has always wanted to partake in the naturalization ceremonies.