An immigrant watching a politicized Naturalization Ceremony

During the second night of the RNC, Trump held a Naturalization Ceremony for five citizen applicants at the White House in the middle of a convention. I watched in horror as they lifted their hands to take the Oath of Allegiance while the president watched on, almost egging them on.

As an immigrant who participated in an official ceremony several years ago, I was appalled by the use of this sacred moment as a political prop. Not only was it gaslighting immigrants who have suffered under this administration, but it was reminiscent of other dictators politicizing a government process and broadcasting party allegiance from public officials.

When I sat in for my own ceremony, we did not have cameras filming, nor were we influenced to take part in a political event. Instead, we freely pledged allegiance to the U.S., and not to any one party or individual. During the RNC, I could tell there was a slight discomfort on the faces of those immigrants standing next to the podium that night. Some did not smile, and if they did, it felt like they had to because of the occasion. It’s possible they were influenced to participate, seeing as there are delays in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Immigrants who have suffered for the last 3.5 years under this president were gaslighted. Advocates who fight for immigrants to stay and seek asylum were also gaslighted.

Many of us have seen the damage, from his use of derogatory language towards immigrants, ordering family separation at the border, ending and restricting DACA and asylum seekers, indiscriminately deporting immigrants, and increasing the length of detentions.

We watched a twisted version of reality as the most anti-immigration president in U.S. history, decided to grant citizenship to applicants from countries that he’s referred to as “shit holes” at some point. A sacred and proud moment was turned into propaganda. For immigrants, this is the final step after going through the long application process: the fingerprints, interviews, exam (English and Civics) — and possibly years of waiting and working to survive in a new country.

For immigrants having left countries where party allegiance is sometimes forced on government officials, it felt oddly similar when acting Homeland Security Secretary, Chad Wolf, praised Trump.

“Mr. President, I want to again commend you for your dedication to the rule of law and for restoring integrity to our immigration system,” acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf told Trump. “Thank you for hosting such a patriotic celebration here at the White House today.”

Heads of government agencies are suppose to keep their neutrality and independence when it comes to political parties. Wolf’s appearance that night is a violation of the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from performing political activities on duty.

Only dictators use the power of their office for reelection campaigns and show favoritism depending on party allegiance of public officials. The government is not suppose to be an extension of the president, but it’s clear Trump has turned the White House into his own brand of demagoguery.

As seen throughout the RNC — this strategy to aggressively convince suburban voters, a group Trump won in 2016, that it’s permissible to vote for him. He may be in danger of losing these folks to Biden, especially with his performance on the pandemic, the economy, immigration, racial injustice and trade. He needs to convince enough swing voters to vote for him with these seemingly noble gestures for minorities.

Despite his pro-immigrant rhetoric during the convention and his bombastic show of governance to prove his kindness, he continues to reduce legal immigration.

As many as 126,000 are waiting to take their oath ceremony, since the USCIS suspended in-person services due to Covid-19 and refused to conduct them remotely. Everyday that the USCIS remains closed, an additional 2,100 soon-to-be citizens will be added to the backlog, cutting the time of eligibility for the November election.

By next year, Trump will reduce legal immigration by 49% since becoming president, which will significantly impact the nation’s economic growth. Some of the policies most responsible for reduction on legal immigration include: the travel ban against muslim countries, reducing refugees gaining permanent residence, preventing Central Americans from applying for asylum at the border, and changes to lower the number of asylum applicants approved each year, suspending Family-Sponsored Preferences, as well as Diversity Visas.

Additionally, the administration implemented spending cuts to USCIS to prevent furloughs, severely impacting operational cost that will increase “backlogs and wait times across the board, with no guarantee we can avoid future furloughs.” Billionaires get tax-cuts, but social services for legal immigration, which will not only increase economic growth, but provide sanctuary for asylum seekers, are expendable.

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Cynthia Via

Cynthia Via

Writer, journalist and lover of poems and birds. cynthiavia.com