President Trump’s promised assault on immigration, including a pledge to end the DACA program, was…
Five new American citizens were stunned to be naturalized at a White House ceremony during the Republican National Convention. Some said they did not know they were being broadcast until friends called to tell them. Salih Abdul Samad, center, and other new American citizens celebrating with their families after a naturalization ceremony at the White,
WASHINGTON —President Trump moved within weeks of taking office to prohibit immigrants from Sudan from entering the United States, citing terrorism threats and including it in his travel ban on some predominantly Muslim countries — restrictions that remain partly in place today. But on Tuesday, when Mr. Trump wanted to portray himself as pro-immigrant, he invited Neimat Abdelazim Awadelseid, a Sudanese woman who had just qualified to become a U.S. citizen, and four others to a White House naturalization ceremony that his re-election campaign featured prominently during the Republican National Convention.
The president’s willingness to use the trappings of presidential power during a campaign convention was a striking departure from previous presidents who avoided so blatantly blurring the lines between official actions and political activity. And Mr. Trump’s declaration that “we welcome five absolutely incredible new members into our great American family” stands in stark contrast to his anti-immigrant policies, often fueled by xenophobic language.
His decision to preside over the naturalization ceremony appeared aimed at suburbanites, people of color and women put off by his usually strident talk.
Ms. Awadelseid, 66, a substitute teacher who works with Sudanese children in her suburban Virginia community, said in an interview that “it is hard for my country” to be subject to travel restrictions but that it was an honor to visit the White House.
“It is a special moment, to get it from a president of the United States, to give me the citizenship,” she said. Ms. Awadelseid, who received a master’s degree and a doctorate from the University of Wyoming, has lived full time in the United States since 2000. She said she did not like to talk about politics and did not say whether she was surprised that her ceremony was broadcast during the convention.
But others, including Sudha Sundari Narayanan, 35, who was also among the five people sworn in at the White House, said they had not been told.
“I was surprised and shocked and excited,” said Ms. Narayanan, who immigrated to the United States in 2007 from India.
Ms. Narayanan, who said she did not have an opinion about Mr. Trump’s immigration policies, said she found out that the ceremony aired during the convention only when an excited friend called her later that night telling her she was on television.
“I never dreamed that something like this would happen,” Ms. Narayanan said. “I’m just a very simple girl trying to get my family running.”
Salih Abdul Samad, a Ghanaian chef, also did not know that the event would be broadcast during the convention. By Wednesday morning, he had received messages from friends around the world about his new fame.
“When you call me, you have to go through security background checks because I’m a star,” Mr. Abdul Samad, 44, joked. He added that he was thankful for the United States, particularly the Affordable Care Act, which he said saved his life when his kidneys failed six years ago.
“I’m so ever grateful to this country for what they’ve given me,” Mr. Abdul Samad said.
The decision by Mr. Trump’s campaign to feature the naturalization ceremony angered some senior officials with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which oversees the naturalization process. Several expressed frustration with what they described as a politicized event.
Some asylum officers confronted senior agency officials during a virtual town hall on Wednesday about whether Chad F. Wolf, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, had violated rules prohibiting political activity by presiding over the ceremony.
“It’s one of the things that shouldn’t be politicized, and you can hardly get more political than your partisan political convention,” said Barbara Strack, a former chief of the refugee affairs division at Citizenship and Immigration Services during the Bush and Obama administrations.
White House officials said Wednesday that the ceremony, which featured Mr. Trump arriving to “Hail to the Chief,” was an official government event because it was taped Tuesday afternoon and publicly made available on the White House website. A White House spokeswoman said the president’s re-election campaign had simply decided to use it once it was on the website.
Planning for the event began early last week when White House officials reached out to the Washington office of the citizenship and immigration agency with a request to organize a naturalization ceremony at the White House, according to a senior administration official. Naturalization ceremonies have been held at the White House under previous presidents and Mr. Trump himself, but this appears to be the first time one has been broadcast during a political convention.
As the weekend approached, the White House officials requested information about the potential candidates for the ceremony and suggested the agency find immigrants from Mexico — something of a turnaround from Mr. Trump’s usual messaging on Mexico. When he announced his candidacy in 2015, he warned of Mexican “rapists” coming to the United States, and he has spent nearly four years trying to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. As it happened, no one from Mexico was at the ceremony.
Ms. Narayanan, from India, had traveled to the United States with her husband, who came on a student visa. Ms. Narayanan accompanied him on an F2 visa that allows spouses and dependents of foreign students at American schools to temporarily stay in the United States. Last July, the Trump administration proposed stripping international students of their visas if they exclusively took online courses during the coronavirus pandemic, but after an outcry from colleges and universities, the rule was rescinded.Aug. 26, 2020, 7:40 p.m. ETAug. 26, 2020, 7:09 p.m. ETAug. 26, 2020, 5:14 p.m. ET
Ms. Narayanan, who has two children born in the United States, obtained lawful permanent residency in 2013. She said she took her citizenship test and had her required interview just a week before she received a call about the ceremony at the White House.
“It was very warm and welcoming,” Ms. Narayanan said of the event with the president. “I told him it was such an honor to meet him.”
Ms. Awadelseid, from Sudan, studied at the University of Wyoming twice, first to get her master’s in the early 1980s and then her doctorate in 1994. She said both degrees were in animal nutrition. She arrived in the United States permanently in 2000, and eventually got a green card through sponsorship by her brother, who had already become a citizen.
“The situation in Sudan was really not good politically and economically and everything,” she said. “When we found the chance to be a permanent resident here in the U.S.A., we stayed.”
She said she planned to quickly register to vote in the 2020 election.
“I’m excited about that,” she said.
The other attendees included Rima Gedeon, 46, from Lebanon, who works at a preschool in Virginia, and Robert Alcocer, 32, from Bolivia, who works at a construction company.
While the administration highlighted the ceremony at the White House, employees with the citizenship and immigration agency say future naturalizations are likely to face delays. On the same day as the ceremony, the administration canceled furloughs for more than 13,400 agency employees by cutting costs that would slow down future naturalizations.
The Trump administration also moved late last month to raise the cost of naturalization applications by more than 80 percent and to substantially tighten eligibility requirements for a subsidized application.
Of all the contradictions about a White House naturalization ceremony during the Republican National Convention, the starkest of all may be that Mr. Trump himself started an initiative seeking to potentially strip the citizenship status of thousands of people — a departure from the past several decades of practice and Supreme Court precedent.
Mr. Trump’s Justice Department announced in 2018 a goal of filing 1,600 denaturalization cases, a major acceleration of the previous use of denaturalization. Fewer than 150 people had been denaturalized in American courts in the previous 50 years, almost all of them Nazis, war criminals or people who were convicted of federal crimes tied to large-scale immigration fraud.
The president has largely blocked asylum seekers and refugees fleeing persecution, war and violence. He has built nearly 300 miles of border wall (though without persuading Mexico to pay for it, as he once insisted). He has made it harder for poor people to immigrate to the United States, imposed travel bans on predominantly Muslim countries and separated migrant children from their parents at the border.
Mr. Abdul Samad said Wednesday that he found the president’s comments about African nations as “very painful,” but he was “very very honored and grateful” to Mr. Trump for inviting him to the White House.
“That doesn’t mean that I can’t criticize him or I won’t criticize him when he does something bad or something I feel is not good,” Mr. Abdul Samad said.
At the ceremony, Mr. Trump listened to the five immigrants take the oath of citizenship, then approached the lectern to briefly share each of their stories.
“Congratulations,” he said. “That’s fantastic. That’s really great.”
Last week, during a briefing from border officials in Yuma, Ariz., the president had similar praise for a very different achievement.
“That’s fantastic. That’s fantastic,” he told border officials about the completion of nearly 300 miles of the border wall. “So, it’s a great — it’s a great feeling to have closed up the border.”
Caitlin Dickerson contributed reporting from New York.
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The Green Card Process Through the Lens of a DMV Visit
As an immigration attorney, I try to provide clients with a basic, yet insightful, understanding of various aspects of a complex immigration system. It’s not always easy, but I often find analogies to something commonplace can be helpful. One analogy I’ve found to work well to explain the green card process beyond describing its mere,
As an immigration attorney, I try to provide clients with a basic, yet insightful, understanding of various aspects of a complex immigration system. It’s not always easy, but I often find analogies to something commonplace can be helpful. One analogy I’ve found to work well to explain the green card process beyond describing its mere sequence of form filings likens the process to a visit to a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office.
In my practice area of business immigration law, green card processes are mostly employment-based and involve the successive filing of a labor certification application, immigrant petition, and adjustment of status application (with the first not always required and the latter two sometimes eligible for concurrent filing). So I’ll refer to these types of filings in describing the analogy here. But variations of the analogy may be equally applicable to other types of green card processes, such as those in which the aspiring permanent resident will apply for an immigrant visa overseas rather than adjustment of status within the United States, as well as those based on family relationships and those available to asylees and refugees.
The trappings of a visit to the DMV, no matter the state, may be familiar to you: the issuance of a waiting number determining your place in a queue, followed by a long wait for your number to be called at one of several counters to file required paperwork, followed yet again by a lengthy wait for your paperwork to be processed, and eventually – hopefully – approved without issue. The counter at which you’ll be called, and the length of the corresponding queue (or maybe in some fortunate instances, the absence of one altogether), often depends on specific factors, such as the type of service you’re seeking.
Just as you’re issued a waiting number upon entry into a DMV office, aspiring permanent residents are issued a priority date when the first major filing in their green card process (either the labor certification application or immigrant petition) is submitted. The priority date is the date this first filing is submitted and determines, once the immigrant petition is approved, the aspiring permanent resident’s place in any existing queue to apply for adjustment of status.
Similar to how you wait at the DMV for your number to be called to file your paperwork at the appropriate counter, aspiring permanent residents face varying wait times for their priority date to be “called” at a designated “counter” to apply for adjustment of status. The “counter” in the green card process at which aspiring permanent residents must apply for adjustment of status is based on a combination of two main factors: their immigrant classification (which, when speaking with clients, I refer to as their “green card category”) and their country of chargeability (which I refer to as their country of birth). Aside from some significant exceptions outside of the employment-based green card process, the law limits the supply of green cards available each fiscal year. Because the law allocates this limited supply based on a combination of both immigrant classification and country of chargeability, queues form at “counters” where the demand for green cards exceeds the available supply. And the more severely demand exceeds supply, the longer the queue will be. This analogy helps to show why EB-2 and EB-3 immigrants born in India and China are often confronted with waits lasting many years for their priority date to be “called” at their designated counters, while EB-2 and EB-3 immigrants born in most other countries often face no such queue. In technical terms, the existence of a queue at a given “counter” means the availability of green cards associated with that counter’s classification and chargeability combination is “retrogressed.” If there’s no queue, green card availability at that counter is “current.”
A visit to the DMV often entails a wait of several hours sitting and keeping watch of your designated counter at it serves the visitors who arrived before you until your own number is finally called. Likewise, many aspiring permanent residents monitor the often plodding, month-to-month movement of “cut-off dates” in the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ monthly Visa Bulletins for the designated “counter” at which they must apply for adjustment of status. The Visa Bulletin for a given month contains various charts showing whether a queue for filing an adjustment of status application exists for any classification and chargeability combination, and if so, how long the queue is. Combinations for which there is no queue are assigned a “C” notation, indicating that green card availability is current and that the adjustment of status application can thus be filed at any time that month, including in concurrence with an immigrant petition if it has not already been approved, and assuming any prerequisite labor certification has been granted. Combinations for which there is a queue, and for which green card availability is thus retrogressed, are denoted by a “cut-off date,” with older dates reflecting longer queues. Aspiring permanent residents seeking to adjust status at a “counter” at which green card availability is retrogressed can track their place in the queue by comparing their priority date with the applicable cut-off date each month. Priority dates that fall before the applicable cut-off date in a given month are those that have been “called,” indicating that much like counters at which green card availability is current, an adjustment of status application can be filed at any time that month, including in concurrence with an immigrant petition if it has not already been approved, and assuming again that any prerequisite labor certification has been granted.
Like processing of paperwork filed at a counter at the DMV, processing of an adjustment of status application may take a long time. But eventually – hopefully – the application is approved without issue. And unlike a visit to the DMV, having qualified counsel during the green card process can make all the difference in one’s chance of success.
 For example, “immediate relatives” (spouses and children of US citizens, and parents of US citizens if the citizen is at least 21 years old) are exempt from annual numerical limits on green card availability. INA 201(b)(2)(A)(i).
 Aspiring permanent residents for whom the queue for applying for adjustment of status involves a wait of several years, such as EB-2 and EB-3 immigrants born in India and China, commonly change jobs or employers in the course of their wait. Such a change can require a restart of the green card process since employment-based green card processes are generally job and employer specific. But to allow aspiring permanents residents who change jobs or employers to keep their place in queue, the law permits them to retain their priority date under certain conditions if they are the beneficiary of a previously approved EB-1, EB-2, or EB-3 immigrant petition, and likewise become the beneficiary of an approved EB-1, EB-2, or EB-3 immigrant petition based on their new job or employer. 8 CFR 204.5(e).
 US Citizenship and Immigration Service also publishes monthly updates indicating whether to use the Visa Bulletin’s Dates for Filing charts or its Final Action Dates charts, to determine whether an adjustment of status application may be filed.
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