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Minnesota will halt ceremonies granting U.S. citizenship to immigrants until May 8, the latest in the federal court system’s attempt to limit public gatherings and slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Chief U.S. District Judge John Tunheim signed the order Thursday to suspend all naturalization ceremonies, effective immediately, in coordination with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Office.

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The order directs people who need to obtain the administration of the oath of allegiance sooner to contact their immigration officers. It cites the action coming from “significant health concerns presented by the COVID-19 outbreak for a public gathering of any size and notification from the United States and Immigration Services that their Minnesota office is currently unable to process new citizen applications or handle ceremonies.”

Over the past week, Tunheim has suspended the federal court’s most vital functions, an unprecedented measure responding to the virus. Last week, he issued an order temporarily stopping all jury trials, grand jury proceedings and attorney admission ceremonies. The courts have since paused all criminal proceedings, including petty offense hearings, other than with special exception from a judge.

The state court system is still operating, though with an emphasis on only the most serious cases, rather than low-level or nonviolent misdemeanors.

Andy Mannix • 612-673-4036