More than 400,000 people barred from becoming citizens due to coronavirus: report
Hundreds of thousands of people may be unable to complete the process to become American citizens in time for the November election due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to tech firm Boundless Immigration, which helps immigrants apply for citizenship and green cards.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) “did the right thing by pausing live oath ceremonies and live interviews, there’s no dispute about that,” Boundless Immigration co-founder Doug Rand, a former immigration adviser to President Obama, told NBC News.
“The problem is USCIS hasn’t come up with a next step and come up with remote pathways for people to take the oath and do interviews,” he added, saying the agency should explore alternate methods of administering the oath.
“It’s a beautiful oath and ceremony, but we shouldn’t be standing on ceremony now,” Rand told the network. “We should be helping these people who are literally on the threshold of becoming citizens to get over that line.”
A USCIS spokesperson told The Hill that the agency has “temporarily closed field offices to the public. Field offices will send notices with instructions to applicants with scheduled interviews or naturalization ceremony appointments.”
“They will automatically be rescheduled once normal operations resume. Voter registration requirements vary by state, including the deadline for registration in order to vote,” the USCIS spokesperson added.
The agency has been shut down since March 18 and is scheduled to remain closed until at least May 3.
Boundless Immigration estimates that about 441,00 people who would have become citizens if not for the shutdown will be unable to vote in November, absent either a remote option or the process reopening by the October registration deadline, according to NBC. All states have a deadline that month, many in its first week.
Those potentially left in limbo include about 126,000 people who had completed the citizenship process and were scheduled to take their oaths as well as others who were waiting for their interviews and English proficiency tests. An average of 63,000 people a month are approved for naturalization, according to the group’s analysis of USCIS data.
Updated: 6:20 p.m.