COVID-19 and American Citizenship

COVID-19 is Forever Changing the Definition of What it means to be a Citizen of the United States

Jacob Almodovar, Fall 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 has been one of the worst tragedies in recent history, and continues to ravage large populous areas of places like America, Italy, China and France, along with many other countries and territories around the world. Particularly in America, there have been many restrictions and regulations that have affected our citizenship in the present, and will have a long lasting effect that potentially could last forever given certain circumstances. The COVID-19 pandemic affected American citizenship in unique ways, and it will never be the same in the future going forward.

Immigration is at a standstill and thus is disrupting one idea of American citizenship. First off, according to the A.I.C, (American Immigration Council) “The COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus) pandemic, and the related federal response, disrupted virtually every aspect of the U.S. immigration system. Visa processing overseas by the Department of State, as well as the processing of some immigration benefits within the country by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), have come to a near standstill.”[1] Essentially people are now unable to even get a response back because everything is at a standstill. This is directly how COVID-19 has affected the idea of citizenship. COVID-19 has literally prevented people from becoming citizens because these agencies just aren’t doing what they need to be doing to approve or deny applications.

The idea of the business is very enticing to many, and as we all know, the owner of every company makes more than their employees, obviously given certain circumstances like Steve Jobs in the mid 2000’s taking 1 dollar for his salary, or President Trump giving his salary away at the beginning of his presidency, usually the C.E.O and owner makes the most money. Both of these business magnates I mention both had started businesses from scratch or were provided aid by family, but all followed down a similar businesses like path, in that they both worked hard and achieved a level of success most don’t get too, it’s undeniable. Their success was long before COVID-19 had struck, so they were more free to do business then than citizens are now. The reason I say this is because most citizens have once thought about opening a business, and many folks of course have opened businesses before, but now small businesses are now falling in record numbers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here local to Worcester are a couple who started their dream restaurant, only for it to be barely alive during this pandemic. “George and Nicole Yantsides, who opened their dream restaurant and live music venue last year, just months before COVID-19 was known, are fighting hard to keep it open after Gov. Charlie Baker … mandated new restrictions [in November].”[2] There are multiple new restrictions, but specifically the restrictions that affect them the most is the mandatory closing at 9:30pm.[3] George and Nicole’s restaurant is a bar and live music, which one can only assume tends to be more popular at night with a few cocktails involved also. Those business owners know that without being an American citizen, they are not able to operate their restaurant, thus when people in power limit their ability to operate their restaurant, it hurts them as a business owner and a citizen. A citizen is entitled to certain rights to operate a business, and that’s part of being a citizen is having the freedom to operate your own business how you please. If all of a sudden the government is intervening because of COVID-19, ultimately your business, despite your rights, will be overridden in the name of public safety, although it may be good for everyone’s health, it is extremely hurtful to the idea of what it means to be American citizenship to a lot of Americans. This is one of the reasons that COVID-19 is negatively affecting citizenship. When people start their business they do it because they believe in themselves and they have the legal right to do so regardless of their citizenship status. The longer these restrictions and regulations are imposed and continue to hurt businesses that were already hurting, then we aren’t going to have many more businesses soon. Unless you are very lucky or incredibly well known, or have one of the few essential businesses, new businesses aren’t going to survive based on these new restrictions.

COVID-19 has done many negative things to hurt the idea of American citizenship, but also has affected some aspects positively and in which it has helped grow American citizenship. Every citizen of the United States has the right to vote guaranteed by the Constitution. The right to vote is definitely one of the most important aspects of American citizenship. COVID-19 hit American soil around January 2020 [4] and coincidently the election happens to be during the same year. Seeing as how the election was coming up, people rightfully were worried about how they were going to get to their polling locations and generally just concerned about how voting was going to be operating this year with the pandemic still going on. Because the idea of voting is so important to the overall idea of American citizenship, actions needed to be taken in order for a safe voting experience. “Often a service used by those living overseas, such as the military, but increasing in popularity, mail-in voting has taken on new significance in the pandemic, with more than 80 million requested so far in this general election cycle, double the previous presidential election and more than half the total vote cast in 2016.”[5] Mail-in voting has grown exponentially with the surge of COVID-19, and this is a good thing. This inevitably leads to more and more people voting and expressing their ideas. “For the general election, at least 30 states plus the District of Columbia have made at least some changes that will make it easier and more accessible for voters to cast their ballots from home.”[6] Out of many negatives that came out of COVID-19, there were a few positives that added and promoted American citizenship.

American citizens are turning into soldiers on the front line of a deadly war versus COVID-19, and re-defining what it means to be an American citizen. “Not all heroes wear camo. In the coronavirus pandemic it is everyday Americans, from doctors and nurses and EMTs to grocery workers and delivery drivers, who are putting their health and lives at risk to protect and provide for everyone else.”[7] In this way, many doctors and nurses might not see themselves or their peers as heroes, rather just people doing what they love, but certainly in this context, our doctors and nurses and EMTs all the way to grocery workers and delivery drivers are heroes for doing what they are doing day in and day out for everyone else. These people in these professions were not signing up for COVID-19 to hit when they applied for the job, so for them to still be there and fighting for their business to stay alive is heroic. Helping one another is something many of us learn as a kid because it is so crucial to what it means to be an American, more specially an American citizen. We are all in this together and as citizens we must help each other and bring each other up in a time of need. There is not a better time than now for each and everyone of us to make a positive contribution to society.

COVID-19 has forever shaped the way in which American citizenship is defined, for better and worse. COVID-19 has led to an increase in mail-in voting, which in turn allows for more people to share and express their voice freely, but also lets people do it more safely and securely. COVID-19 has also surely exposed the thousands, if not millions of heroes on the front lines everyday continuing to work tirelessly to make things better. These positives will forever change American citizenship for the better, and improve on the idea of what it means to be an American citizen. It now and forever has meant someone who’s willing to help and sacrifice what’s necessary to complete the task at hand. On the opposite side of the spectrum, because there’s two sides to every story, COVID-19 has also shaped the way in which American Citizenship is defined for the worse. It is permanently going to hurt businesses and the idea of businesses.

A lot of people’s idea of American citizenship and with these restrictions and regulations being imposed with no end in sight, new coming and old citizens are not going to want to start a restaurant or gym if they can just be closed in an instant. All in all at the end of the day, we, as a collective group of American citizens, along with literally the entirety of the world, are in a long and tedious fight against COVID-19. And if anyone in the world can defeat COVID-19, it’s the citizens of the United States of America. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every American citizen, and from when the first reports of the virus were coming over, American citizenship right there and then was changed forever.

Notes

[1] https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/impact-covid-19-us-immigration-system

[2] https://www.telegram.com/story/news/2020/11/03/worcester-restaurants-say-early-closing-time-curfew-hurt-business-and-may-not-help-curb-covid-19/6143326002/

[3] https://boston.cbslocal.com/2020/11/06/massachusetts-coronavirus-covid-19-new-restrictions-masks-stay-at-home-order-curfew/

[4] https://www.ajmc.com/view/a-timeline-of-covid19-developments-in-2020

[5] https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2020/0428/How-coronavirus-will-change-the-US-from-where-we-live-to-the-way-we-connect

[6] https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/election-2020-voting-coronavirus-pandemic-unlike-year/story?id=73592283

[7] https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2020/0428/How-coronavirus-will-change-the-US-from-where-we-live-to-the-way-we-connect

Further Reading

How COVID-19 Has Impacted the U.S. Naturalization Process.” Gambacortalaw, 2 Oct. 2020.

COVID-19: Effect on Human Behavior.” Accenture, 3 Apr. 2020.

Worcester State University Fall 2020