Citizenship concerns remain as immigration agency reopens

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New citizens are sworn in while observing social distancing, outside the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services building, Thursday, June 4, 2020, in Lawrence, Mass. The federal agency is resuming services in many cities across the country after being shuttered for more than two months because of the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

LAWRENCE, Mass.

LAWRENCE, Mass. (AP) — For Albert Baraka, the ceremony outside the federal immigration office in Lawrence, Massachusetts, was brief, but life changing.

The 20-year-old, who came to the country six years ago as a refugee from Congo, joined nine others Thursday morning to recite the oath of allegiance, the final, ceremonial step to becoming a U.S. citizen.

A junior studying business management at Norwich University, a private military college in Vermont, he said he’s looking forward to being able to cast his very first ballot this election.

“In these hard times, it’s a blessing,” Baraka said, standing with his mother, who became a citizen earlier this year, and his younger sister. “Voting is the most important thing for me now because I feel like it’s important to choose wisely in who you want to be your leader, and to speak out on what you believe in.”