BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A federal judge in Idaho has held a pair of outdoor court proceedings to safely swear in new U.S. citizens from more than a dozen countries who otherwise would have had to wait months to become citizens because of the coronavirus pandemic.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale administered the oath of citizenship to 37 people wearing masks Thursday on a patio outside the James D. McClure U.S. Courthouse and Federal Building in Boise, the Idaho Press reported. Twenty more new citizens took the oath outdoors in Boise last week.
Without the ceremonies, their citizenship status was in limbo because federal courts have postponed or halted in-person court gatherings to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Among the recipients was 29-year-old Marta Rupp of the Dominican Republic, who has lived in the small city of Middleton near Boise for about 10 years.
“I’m grateful for this country and for all the things it has given me, so I think it was pretty cool to volunteer — an honor," Rupp said.
Also taking the oath were people from countries including Afghanistan, China, Mexico and Peru.
The idea for the outdoor citizenship ceremony came from Steven Kenyon, the clerk of Idaho's U.S. District and Bankruptcy courts, after he saw a photo of an outside municipal court proceeding in San Francisco during the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918.
There was precedent in Idaho for this month's outdoor ceremonies: An outdoor citizenship ceremony was held at Boise State University's football stadium in 1990 for more than 100 people.
Dale called the this month's outdoor ceremonies “a beautiful alternative.”
“It’s right up there at the top of the list of the things you can do as a federal judge," she said.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks.
But for some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.