Report: Trump Policies Delay Citizenship For Immigrants Before Election

As Canada has also suspended citizenship interviews and ceremonies, not sure that this falls into the same category as the Trump administration’s anti-immigration and anti-immigrant policies:

Naturalization ceremonies and interviews have stopped due to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office closures and administration policies. At least tens of thousands of immigrants have been prevented from becoming American citizens. Given that solutions to the problem are obvious, the USCIS actions raise questions about whether the Trump administration’s objective is to slow down the pace of naturalization before the 2020 election.

A new report provides a perspective on the current naturalization picture for immigrants. “On March 18, 2020 – due to the coronavirus pandemic – USCIS stopped doing these interviews and ceremonies,” according to a study by Boundless Immigration, a technology company that helps immigrants obtain green cards and citizenship. “This delay has already left well over 100,000 future Americans in limbo. These would-be citizens have already made it through most of the naturalization process. Now they must wait, perhaps indefinitely, before they can become full citizens and gain the right to vote in the 2020 election. If USCIS does not resume interviews and oath ceremonies using remote methods appropriate for the present emergency, the number of disenfranchised citizens-in-waiting will continue to pile up.”

The numbers are adding up. “Boundless did the math, and estimated that 2,100 immigrants will run out of time to vote each day that USCIS offices remain closed,” according to the study. “The number increases for each month the COVID-19 shutdown remains in effect.”

There appears to be no reason why USCIS is not conducting naturalization ceremonies using video conferencing technology, as so much business is being conducted these days. “People who need to complete their citizenship oath ceremony are no different from people who need to complete their oath of office for a position in the current administration – the latter is happening via video conference right now but the former is not,” said Doug Rand, co-founder and president of Boundless, in an interview.

“People who need to complete their naturalization interviews are no different from people who take online proctored exams, which was already happening millions of times long before COVID-19,” said Rand. “The entire country is making do with video conferencing right now, why can’t USCIS?”

Is the absence of an interview the final obstacle preventing many people from becoming citizens? “If USCIS were serious about getting people naturalized, they would schedule a single video conference interview, and if the applicant passes, they would immediately take the oath and become a citizen in that same session,” according to Rand. “This used to happen routinely at field offices before they all closed down. There’s no rule that says the interview and the oath have to be two months apart.”

Rand notes everything came to a halt when USCIS closed its offices. “Both interviews and oath ceremonies shut down on March 18,” he said. “We’re just about to hit the two-month mark, which means that pretty much all the people who have nothing left but an oath ceremony would have been citizens by now, and going forward there will be more and more people who weren’t interviewed by March 18 and also would be citizens if USCIS had been doing remote interviews.”

Immigration attorney Greg Siskind points out the two relevant parts of the Immigration and Nationality Act are 332(a) [1443(a)] on “Rules and regulations governing examination of applicants” and 332(d) [1443(d)] on “Administration of oaths and depositions.” Siskind said, “There is nothing that says the interviews or the oath ceremonies need to happen in person.”

There are currently over 649,000 pending applications for naturalization, according to the latest USCIS data. At the end of FY 2015, there were 363,270 pending naturalization applications. The denial rate for non-military naturalization cases rose from 9.4% in FY 2015 to 10.5% in FY 2019, according to a National Foundation for American Policy analysis.

In his final speech as president, Ronald Reagan spoke about the value of American citizenship. “Since this is the last speech that I will give as president, I think it’s fitting to leave one final thought, an observation about a country which I love,” said Reagan. “It was stated best in a letter I received not long ago. A man wrote me and said: ‘You can go to live in France, but you cannot become a Frenchman. You can go to live in Germany or Turkey or Japan, but you cannot become a German, a Turk, or a Japanese. But anyone, from any corner of the Earth, can come to live in America and become an American.’”

As we think about people who want to become Americans and are now blocked, we might consider Ronald Reagan’s additional remarks about immigrants and citizens in that last speech, remarks that sound so different from the rhetoric we hear today.

“Yes, the torch of Lady Liberty symbolizes our freedom and represents our heritage, the compact with our parents, our grandparents, and our ancestors,” said Reagan. “It is that lady who gives us our great and special place in the world. For it’s the great life force of each generation of new Americans that guarantees that America’s triumph shall continue unsurpassed into the next century and beyond. Other countries may seek to compete with us; but in one vital area, as a beacon of freedom and opportunity that draws the people of the world, no country on Earth comes close.

“This, I believe, is one of the most important sources of America’s greatness. We lead the world because, unique among nations, we draw our people — our strength — from every country and every corner of the world. And by doing so we continuously renew and enrich our nation. While other countries cling to the stale past, here in America we breathe life into dreams. We create the future, and the world follows us into tomorrow. Thanks to each wave of new arrivals to this land of opportunity, we’re a nation forever young, forever bursting with energy and new ideas, and always on the cutting edge, always leading the world to the next frontier. This quality is vital to our future as a nation. If we ever closed the door to new Americans, our leadership in the world would soon be lost.”

Source: Report: Trump Policies Delay Citizenship For Immigrants Before Election

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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