Tuesday’s Republican National Convention sparked uproar on social media from some politicians and commentators for including a naturalization ceremony in the White House, featuring a government official who may be illegally occupying his position, at a political campaign event — and also at a time when U.S. immigration has been delayed by the Trump administration amid the pandemic.
The pre-taped ceremony featured 5 citizenship applicants from disparate backgrounds, with their oaths of citizenship officiated by acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, as Donald Trump watched. Afterward, Wolf effusively praised Trump and the newly inducted citizens were encouraged to do the same.
It appears to be a wholly unprecedented politicization of the naturalization ceremony. No president has ever used such a ceremony as a campaign event, according to the New York Times. And complicating matters further, two weeks ago the Government Accountability Office determined that Wolf is breaking the law by continuing to act as the head of DHS because he was never lawfully appointed.
Both aspects of the event appalled observers as it was happening and afterward.
“My mother was a naturalized citizen. Donald Trump using the ceremony that meant so much to her (in large part because she was excited to be able to vote) IN the White House, is really hard to watch. It’s an abomination, in that this ceremony is NOT about worshiping a president,” MSNBC’s Joy Reid tweeted.
“This is un f’n believable. The most anti-immigrant President in history staging a naturalization ceremony in the WH, with military in uniform, FOR A POLITICAL CONVENTION. infuriating,” former Sen. Claire McCaskill tweeted.
“Dystopian. A racist xenophobe using a naturalization ceremony and the people’s house as a campaign prop. So sickening,” former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe tweeted.
Some also zeroed in on the participation of acting Homeland Security secretary Chad Wolf as a potential violation of the Hatch Act, which generally prohibits government employees in the executive office from participating in political activity while “on duty, in any federal room or building, while wearing a uniform or official insignia, or using any federally owned or leased vehicle,” according to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.
“The Hatch Act is a law designed to separate politics from public service. Those lines are being erased tonight,” Valerie Jarrett said.
See some of the reactions below:
This is un f’n believable. The most anti-immigrant President in history staging a naturalization ceremony in the WH, with military in uniform, FOR A POLITICAL CONVENTION. infuriating.
— Claire McCaskill (@clairecmc) August 26, 2020
My mother was a naturalized citizen. Donald Trump using the ceremony that meant so much to her (in large part because she was excited to be able to vote) IN the White House, is really hard to watch. It's an abomination, in that this ceremony is NOT about worshiping a president.
— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) August 26, 2020
so chad wolf, who is illegally performing the duties of DHS head, broke the law by conducting a naturalization ceremony as part of a partisan event at the White House. do i have that right?
— b-boy bouiebaisse (@jbouie) August 26, 2020
.@jacobsoboroff notes: There are literally tens if not hundreds of thousands of people who are eligible and awaiting their own naturalization ceremonies and they are being prevented from having them because the Trump admin refuses to hold those ceremonies via zoom.
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) August 26, 2020
.@jacobsoboroff: "There are literally tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people who are eligible and awaiting their own naturalization ceremonies. And not only their own naturalization ceremonies, but the ability to vote this November." pic.twitter.com/mYIhXVmGpC
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) August 26, 2020
the Hatch Act gets made out to be some quaint rule about ethics that's hard to enforce, but its purpose is to codify clear lines to keep a presidency from abusing taxpayer resources and warping the government into a function of a person and/or a party
— Edward-Isaac Dovere (@IsaacDovere) August 26, 2020
USCIS employee on seeing naturalization ceremony during RNC:
“It sickened me to my core to watch that spectacle given every directive this administration has taken from day one to demonize immigrant communities, including naturalized ones.”
— Hamed Aleaziz (@Haleaziz) August 26, 2020
I am literally speechless at the abuse of the office of president and naturalization and the White House. I am appalled by the trumpets and setting and the very idea of doing this as part of a political convention.
— Jill Wine-Banks (@JillWineBanks) August 26, 2020
This is an unprecedented abuse of the president's power. A pardon, and now a naturalization ceremony.
If Obama had done something like this, Republicans would have stormed the White House gates with torches.
— S.V. Dáte (@svdate) August 26, 2020
A pardon. A naturalization ceremony. A military honor guard. The marine band. A first lady's speech.
They are literally abusing every lever of executive power for political purposes tonight to promote Trump's #RNC2020.
Unprecedented blurring of the lines in modern politics.
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) August 26, 2020
naturalization ceremonies are beautiful but sticking one from the White House into the RNC is a corrupt use of office for partisan purposes. there are no rules anymore.
— Matt Pearce 🦅 (@mattdpearce) August 26, 2020
Chad Wolfe is not legally in office at the DHS so the whole naturalization theater is a farce.
— Andrew Weissmann (@AWeissmann_) August 26, 2020