The new U.S. Courthouse in Gualo Rai held yesterday morning its first proceedings—two naturalization ceremonies in which 48 took their oaths of allegiance as new U.S. citizens.
U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona, who presided over the ceremonies, congratulated the new citizens, including the oldest at 70 years and five couples, and reminded them of their civic duties.
“Congratulations my fellow Americans,” Manglona told the 48 immigrants shortly after they took their oaths in separate ceremonies at 10am and 3pm.
Most of the new citizens are from the Philippines, and the rest are from Bangladesh, Japan, Hong Kong, Mexico, Russia, Thailand, South Korea, and Mauritius.
Due to COVID-19 pandemic, only the petitioners were allowed in the courtroom. They were all wearing masks and seated at a distance from each other to observe social distancing rules.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officer Karena Dulla, who appeared from Guam via videoconference, presented the petitioners and moved to grant their petitions to become U.S. citizens. Manglona granted the motion.
The court streamed the ceremony on Facebook Live.
Unlike previous naturalization ceremonies held at the previous site of the district court at the Horiguchi Building in Garapan, yesterday’s events were without frills: there was no guest speaker and the videos of President Trump congratulating the new citizens and the God Bless the U.S.A. song were not played in the courtroom.
Manglona had a group photo with the new citizens, but they still observed social distancing and were wearing masks. No individual photo with the judge was taken.
The new citizens were seated in the gallery and not in the jury box as the court normally did prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was also a court staff and not the judge who handed the certificates of naturalization to the new citizens.
For the first time, the court refused to give a copy of the program to the media.
Judicial chambers administrator Amanda Hayes said that, according to USCIS, the court is not permitted to share the names of the petitioners.
USCIS public affairs officer Sharon Rummery stated that USCIS naturalized 833,000 people in fiscal year 2019—an 11-year high.
The District Court postponed the naturalization ceremony set for last March 26 due to COVID-19. The last naturalization ceremony was held last Feb. 20.