Ana Maria Schwartz, an immigration lawyer in Houston, has a dozen clients waiting to recite the oath. They hail from Brazil, Bulgaria, Ecuador, Pakistan, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela and Vietnam, among other countries.
“It takes courage to apply for citizenship,” Ms. Schwartz said. “For some it means giving up citizenship in their countries of birth. It is sometimes not an easy decision to make, and now they are in legal limbo and no one from the government is stepping forward to tell them how and when it will all be over.”
One of her clients, Dardan Qorraj, an immigrant from Kosovo, applied for citizenship in September last year and passed his interview in February. He had been scheduled to take the oath in San Antonio in late March, only to be informed two days before the designated day that the ceremony had been canceled because of the pandemic.
“I was really worried because I didn’t know how long it was going to take,” said Mr. Qorraj, 29, who works as a driver in Austin.
But Mr. Qorraj was invited to attend one of the first ceremonies that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services held under its new pandemic guidelines. He was instructed to wear a mask and to carry his own pen for signing documents. No family or friends would be allowed to accompany him.
After checking in at a tent with workers wearing face coverings and gloves, he was directed to a room where 10 people sat in chairs positioned six feet apart from one another. A government official ordered the group to rise, and led them in the Pledge of Allegiance. The ceremony was over in 10 minutes.
For Mr. Qorraj, who witnessed atrocities, repression and a ruined economy as a child during the war in Kosovo, being an American assures him that he is safe and free, he said.