According to a report from Buzzfeed News, the coronavirus outbreak has disrupted the citizenship process for several thousands of immigrants. The culmination of what can be a decades-long journey for many people has come to a halt right before the finish line. Many people who have applied for citizenship through naturalization are suddenly dealing with unexpected delays and an uncertain timeline.
USCIS has Paused the Citizenship Oath
In its article, Buzzfeed News highlights the story of a 51-year-old man named Luis Molina. Mr. Molina was scheduled to take the official oath of allegiance to the United States in Los Angeles on March 19th. A native of El Salvador, he was preparing a large celebration with his friends and family for that night. Unfortunately—as it has done to so many other things—the COVID-19 outbreak disrupted these plans.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has temporarily canceled naturalization ceremonies. Although canceling large, in-person gatherings is a necessary public health measure, it has left many immigrants in a state of limbo. Currently, USCIS is scheduled to remain closed until at least May 3rd—but the timeline is incredibly uncertain. There are no guarantees when operations will return to normal.
Deep Worries About the Process Going Forward
Currently, much of the citizenship and naturalization process has come to a halt. Large naturalization ceremonies are not the only things that are on hold. USCIS field offices are closed around the entire country—meaning, for now, naturalization interviews and green card interviews are not happening either.
The coronavirus shutdowns are throwing more delays on top of an already overburdened immigration system. There are considerable worries about exactly how the naturalization process will look in the coming months. This is not merely theoretical: USCIS estimates that more than 100,000 immigrants will face delays in naturalization.
As an example, Mr. Molina was excited to exercise his right as an American and vote in the 2020 election. There are now major questions about how many immigrants will not actually make it onto the voting rolls as a consequence of the delays. As Mr. Molina told the journalists, “I’m kind of nervous.” Until his citizenship—and that of thousands of others like him—is finalized, it will be difficult to truly relax.
Action is Required: USCIS Must Take Action
Immigration rights groups are warning that USCIS needs to take a proactive approach to deal with this issue. Major efforts are required to make sure that the naturalization process is able to get back on track as our country makes it through the COVID-19 outbreak. An ambitious, focused plan is needed to ensure that immigrants are able to access the citizenship rights that they earned.
We Advocate for Immigrant Rights in Southern California
At the Law Office of Joshua L. Goldstein, PC, our Los Angeles citizenship lawyer is a diligent, results-focused representative for clients. If you have any questions or concerns about the citizenship application process, call us now for a confidential consultation. We handle citizenship & naturalization matters throughout Southern California, including in Santa Ana, Anaheim, Irvine, Chula Vista, Stockton, and Long Beach. Call (213) 262-2000.