New York —

Martha Leticia Murrieta took the oath of US citizenship alone in her car, in a “drive’thru” and with the mask on

Photo combo with the stand where Martha Leticia Murrieta took her oath of citizenship in Phoenix.

Martha Murrieta / EFE

PHOENIX, Arizona – One imagines the citizenship ceremony as a very solemn act in a large hall packed with immigrants swearing allegiance to the United States, but what Martha Leticia Murrieta She lived due to the coronavirus pandemic. It was something totally different: she was alone in her car and in a simple “drive-thru” process.

Martha Leticia Murrieta, who since this Thursday is already an American of Mexican origin, describes the scene as “surreal” and “never imagined”.

“We were ten people who attended our ceremony, when I arrived there was a small queue where we had to identify ourselves without lowering the glass, as a requirement they asked us for a mandatory mouthpiece,” says the Latina, who took the oath in Phoenix, Arizona.

One of the stipulations that the immigration agents demanded when they spoke to him on the phone to give him the date of his naturalization ceremony was that he attend alone and at all times respect the sanitary measures imposed to try to tackle the pandemic that has spread to more than 1.5 millions of people in the US, of which more than 93,000 have died.

Murrieta thus joined the more than 700,000 immigrants with residence permits (green cards) who naturalize each year in the United States.

He is also part of the thousands of people who have been waiting for his ceremony since last March 18, the Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) closed its offices as a preventive measure.

Like someone who goes to a restaurant to buy takeaway food

Last May 19 the naturalization ceremonies in cars were activated, a system similar to that of take-out restaurants that will last until June 4, when USCIS is scheduled to reopen its offices.

This call came as a surprise to her, as she was completely unaware of this initiative to reduce the delay accumulated by the pandemic.

Now that she is a citizen, Murrieta is already thinking about traveling, and at the same place of the ceremony she asked an officer how to get one of those card passports, although the official warned her that it is still “dangerous” to do it for the pandemic.

At the place where the oath was “held,” security measures were strict, with more than six feet between people and USCIS officers were protected with masks and gloves to attend to the ten people who were inside their cars.

They only got out of their vehicles when they received the order, remotely and through a megaphone, to stand next to the door of their car and from there make the oath of allegiance, while waving a small flag of the United States.

“It was so funny, because when the officer spoke on the podium for the oath, the workers at the factory in the back passed by with their yellow helmets and the noise was heard, I never thought of such a ceremony, it made me laugh,” he says.

“It was all, in less than half an hour I became a citizen”, explains Murrieta, who affirms that many people would have liked a “long ceremony with their relatives” for her it was a “beautiful day” and that she will certainly remember.

By Beatriz Limón