Originally Published in Business Insider
John Haltiwanger - August 27, 2020
Several of the immigrants who became US citizens in a naturalization process led by President Donald Trump during the Republican National Convention on Tuesday were not warned that the president would be there and that it would be aired as part of the convention, the New York Times reported.
Sudha Narayanan, originally from India and one of five people sworn in at the White House on Tuesday, told the Times she only found out the ceremony was aired as part of the RNC after a friend called later and said she was on TV.
"I was surprised and shocked and excited," Narayanan said.
She expressed positive sentiments about the event.
"It was very warm and welcoming," Narayanan said. "I told him it was such an honor to meet him."
Neimat Abdelazim Awadelseid, originally from Sudan, found out only minutes before the ceremony that Trump would attend and also did not know it would be aired as part of the convention, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Awadelseid told the Journal she recalls signing a media release form but cannot remember being informed about the RNC.
Speaking with the Times on Trump's travel ban, which primarily targets predominantly Muslim nations and includes Sudan, Awadelseid said the restrictions make it "hard for my country." She also said it was an honor to be sworn in at the White House.
"It is a special moment, to get it from a president of the United States, to give me the citizenship," Awadelseid told the Times.
"When you call me, you have to go through security background checks because I'm a star," Samad said to the Times, jokingly. Samad told the Times he's grateful for the US and for the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) because it saved his live when he faced kidney failure roughly half a decade ago.
While these new US citizens did not seem to mind that their naturalization ceremony came with big surprises, the setting of the event has sparked fierce criticism from Democrats and ethics groups.
Trump is perhaps the most anti-immigrant president in modern US history. Critics said Trump used the immigrants in the ceremony as props to sanitize his well-documented record of xenophobia and as part of a blatant effort to boost his reelection campaign.
Acting Homeland Security chief Chad Wolf's participation in the ceremony also raised questions as to whether he violated the Hatch Act, a law that prohibits federal employees from participating in certain political activities while on the job.
Reacting to the ceremony via Twitter, the watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said, "This is so obviously, blatantly, insultingly a Hatch Act violation that it's starting to seem like the Trump administration is going out of its way to find new ways to violate the law."
More broadly, the president has faced significant backlash for holding much of the RNC at the White House and turning what is perhaps the most iconic public building in the country into a campaign venue.