On a windswept morning last spring, Mom Leveille slipped into a flowing red dress and high-heeled sandals and headed to a ballpark in Brooklyn, her nerves jangled. A Cambodian refugee, Ms. Leveille had applied for U.S. citizenship nearly two years earlier, and, finally, the moment was nigh when she would take a permanent oath of allegiance to the country where her family had found safe haven.
In the stands of Maimonides Park, she joined 250 people from 65 countries who were sworn in by judges wearing their formal black robes. Like Ms. Leveille, 39, many of the new Americans had waited more than a year to be invited for the naturalization ceremony since first submitting their applications.
She wiped away tears that day as she rose to deliver a speech about the security, the electoral voice and the responsibility that came with becoming a citizen. “It was a very, very long process, and it was very emotional,” she said.
Across the country, naturalization ceremonies are making a comeback, in parks, sports arenas and courthouses, after a long hiatus caused by Covid-19 lockdowns that suspended public gatherings, shuttered immigration offices and put thousands of citizenship applications on hold.
Nearly one million immigrants became citizens in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, the most in almost 15 years and the third-highest number ever, according to a recent Pew Research analysis, demonstrating the increasing impact of immigration on who lives and works in the United States — and who votes.
“People have incentives to become citizens,” said Jeffrey S. Passel, a senior demographer at Pew Research, who co-wrote the study based on government data. “The numbers have not only rebounded. They are reaching levels we have rarely seen in our history.”