Immigrant unaware naturalization ceremony would be used at RNC

Thursday, August 27, 2020
Immigrant unaware naturalization ceremony would be used at RNC
President Donald Trump attends a naturalization ceremony for five new citizens of the United States in a video that aired during the second night of the 2020 Republican National Convention, Aug. 25, 2020.

At least one of the immigrants featured in the naturalization ceremony shown Tuesday during the Republican National Convention told ABC News that they were unaware that the video was going to be used during the event.

Neimat Awadelseid told ABC News she was unaware President Donald Trump was even going to attend the event, but did know it would be at the White House. She added that she signed a release so they could use footage from the event however they wanted.

The taped naturalization was played during the second night and raised eyebrows from ethics watchdogs and Democrats over its use of an official government action, personnel and building for a political event. Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee have called for a Hatch Act Investigation into acting Secretary Chad Wolf's participation in the event.

Awadelseid, however, told ABC News she was not upset that the ceremony was included in the convention programming.

"It is my honor to be given my citizenship by a president of the United States," she said.

A second individual that took part in the ceremony, Sudha Narayanan, told The Wall Street Journal she was also unaware that the ceremony would be part of the RNC's video segments, but added, "We were just happy it was happening in a special place."

Another immigrant who was in the ceremony, Salih Abdul Samad, did not tell ABC News if he had any knowledge that the taped event would be used in the ceremony, but said he was grateful to be part of it.

"It's not everybody that gets the chance to be there, to be sworn in as a citizen of this great nation," he told ABC News.

Critics raised alarms about the possible ethical violations that the video presented.

"It is corruption in its highest form for Chad Wolf, in coordination with President Trump, to time a swearing in ceremony for a partisan convention," Austin Evers, the executive director of watchdog group American Oversight, told ABC News.

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson wrote a letter to special counsel Henry Kerner on Wednesday urging him to investigate Wolf's participation as a possible Hatch Act violation.

"Mr. Wolf's participation appears to constitute engaging in political activity while acting in an official capacity. It also sets a bad example for the Department's 240,000 employees who are required to comply with the Hatch Act," Thompson wrote.

The Department of Homeland Security directed ABC News to the White House for comment, which subsequently directed ABC to the Trump campaign. The campaign declined to comment.

ABC News' Ivan Pereira, Luke Barr and John Santucci contributed to this report.

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