DETROIT – A 60-year-old British woman pulled into a Detroit parking lot one recent afternoon, lowered the glass in her truck, was sworn in, and left as a brand-new United States citizen.
The entire process took less than half an hour.
The decision allows immigration officials to deport certain people without a trial in the case.
Anita Rosenberg is one of thousands of people across the country who completed their naturalization this month by following the rules associated with the COVID-19 outbreak, which transformed what was long a ceremony infused with solemnity and patriotism into something akin to visit a fast food restaurant.
“It was a beautiful experience even though I was alone, in my car, wearing a face mask,” said Rosenberg, sales manager for a Detroit electronic parts company. “I will always remember her.”
Scenes like this are lived throughout the nation, although perhaps not for much longer.
It affects a requirement for those who apply for asylum in the US.
The agency Citizenship and Immigration Services (known by its acronym in English, USCIS) says that budget problems could force her to fire three-quarters of her staff, severely affecting her operations at a time when tens of thousands of people are expecting to become citizens.
This could have political consequences, especially in states like Michigan and Florida, where the number of naturalized Americans exceeds President Donald Trump’s narrow margin of victory in the 2016 election.
The main epidemiologist of the US government, Anthony Fauci, warned on Tuesday that the number of new daily cases of coronavirus in the country could soon go from 40,000 to 100,000, in a trend that he considered “worrying”.
“I would not be surprised if there are hundreds of thousands of people who cannot vote in November and who could have if USICS had been operating normally,” said Randy Capps of the Institute for Migration Policy. “That is everyone’s concern.”
The agency that handles naturalizations has not said what it will do if Congress does not approve a $ 1.2 billion emergency fund for it by August 3. Responding in writing to several questions, he indicated that “all operations will be affected” if staff must be licensed.
It is an extension for immigrants to complete their migration processes.
USCIS collects the $ 4.8 billion from its budget from the rates it charges for those who want to live or work in the country.
Revenue had already declined since Trump’s arrival in government as he took several measures to restrict immigration. And COVID-19 cut its revenue in half, according to the agency.
“The impact of the coronavirus pandemic is far-reaching and widespread,” said Acting USCIS Director Joseph Edlow.
The agency proposes to return the money it receives from Congress with a 10% surcharge to cover commissions.
While blaming the pandemic for its financial problems, immigration experts and a USCIS employee union say other factors play a role, including the government’s policy of allocating more resources to examining applications and searching for fraud.
The government, on the other hand, has discontinued a number of programs, including freezing H-1B visas for skilled workers, which are a major source of income for USCIS.
“The agency has distanced itself from its mission and has become an agency in charge of carrying out the agenda of the Trump government,” said Diego Iñíguez-López, of the National Partnership for New Americans, an organization that promotes the interests of immigrants. .
He said 110,000 people were hoping to take citizenship when in-person operations were suspended in March by the virus. He said he hopes to catch up on these ceremonies by the end of July, thanks in part to ceremonies like the one in Detroit.
Some lawmakers raise virtual ceremonies, but the agency is reluctant to do so.
There is a long list of 700,000 people who applied for citizenship and now must wait an average of 10 months to complete the process, compared to six months in the last year of the Barack Obama government.