The impact of the global coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic has been severe. As of March 23, 2020, there have been 372,253 cases of COVID-19 and 16,312 deaths. While this disease was first discovered in China, its impact has been felt worldwide, especially in Italy, South Korea, Iran, and the United States. Jean Danhong Chen explains how the current global situation related to the coronavirus is having an impact on those applying for citizenship in the United States.
In-Person Services Closed
Chinese citizens who are applying for United States citizenship may be concerned about the status of their applications. While there are no restrictions against Chinese green card holders achieving United States citizenship, it may be that there are delays in scheduling citizenship tests as a result of the pandemic.
The offices of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services have been closed to routine in-person services as of March 18, 2020. This will have a serious impact on foreign nationals who are interested in applying for American citizenship, regardless of their nation of origin.
All field office appointments, asylum appointments, and naturalization oath ceremonies have also been delayed and will be rescheduled at some point in the future. The USCIS is still processing emergency applications and providing some urgent services in-person.
Global Impact of the Coronavirus
The coronavirus or COVID-19 has had a broad and sweeping effect on the entire global community. The disease was first detected in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in December 2019. The disease spread rapidly, and the Chinese government soon put severe restrictions in place to keep its people at home. The government extended its annual New Year’s holiday, meaning that many travelers within China could not return home for a matter of weeks.
As international travelers spread the virus around the world, countries had varied ways of reacting to the highly contagious disease. The United States government initially did not take the reports of the disease seriously, possibly delaying a coherent response to the crisis.
By January 23, 2020, the American government restricted foreign nationals who had been in China during the last 14 days from entering the country. American citizens and green card holders were still allowed to enter but were required to enter quarantine at government facilities.
Escalating Travel Bans
As the virus continued to spread, travel restrictions progressed from China to Hong Kong, South Korea, Iran, and Italy. Italy has been particularly hard-hit by the virus, with its hospitals and public services stressed to their limit.
The United States and other countries instituted travel bans by air and put restrictions on who could enter their land-based borders as well. These restrictions have caused the flow of tourism to stop between many countries, keeping these countries from receiving an important source of income.
Social Distancing and Self-Isolation
Another way in which the global COVID-19 pandemic has affected the world is the institution of “social distancing.” Around the world, people are encouraged or even required to remain at home, going out only for essential services like food shopping and medication.
When instituted quickly enough and with enough consistency across the board, these measures can help to “flatten the curve” of infections and keep from overwhelming local hospitals with sick patients. In the United States, schools have been closed on a state-by-state basis around the country, with some states like Virginia suspending in-person classes for the remainder of the academic year.
The Impact of the Virus on Asian Communities
Asian communities in the United States and around the world have been experiencing racism and discrimination thanks to the public rhetoric surrounding COVID-19. In many areas, Asians are experiencing bullying and harassment due to their perceived connection with the virus.
Chinese and other Asian restaurants and other businesses have also been discriminated against, with some closing their doors completely even though take-out food is still permitted in all U.S. states as of March 23.
The increasing pace of state shutdowns has had a serious impact on the nation’s economy. This also affects Chinese applicants for American citizenship. Many people have had to apply for unemployment, and many businesses have closed for the duration of the crisis.
The loss of tourism dollars alone will have a significant effect on the nation’s economy. Many large amusement parks like Disney parks and Universal Studios have closed their gates for the foreseeable future.
The Hope for Fairness
Jean Danhong Chen and other immigration attorneys serving the Chinese community that the United States government will treat its green card holders and citizenship applicants fairly while the USCIS has suspended in-person operations except under emergency conditions.
If Chinese citizens are discriminated against due to their perceived connection with COVID-19, there could be consequences within the international community. The principles of equality and fairness need to be followed even in the situation in which the world finds itself today. Treating all citizenship applicants equally is a must in these difficult times.