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The federal agency that issues visas is almost broke, its fee income ravaged by the pandemic.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the federal agency that administers the country’s lawful immigration system, says it could be insolvent by summer, and has asked Congress for $1.2 billion to stay afloat.
The agency handles applications for green cards, citizenship and other programs, and it relies on fees paid by applicants for 97 percent of its $4.8 billion annual budget. Applications have plummeted because of travel and immigration restrictions imposed in response to the pandemic.
In addition to the money it is requesting from Congress, the agency plans to impose a 10 percent surcharge on its fees, on top of previously proposed increases. The cost of petitioning for naturalization would jump more than 60 percent, to $1,170 from $725, for most applicants.
Critics said the Trump administration’s policies, including new requirements for some green card applicants and more extensive reviews for H-1B visas, hit the agency from two sides — reducing revenue by dissuading people from applying, and increasing the amount of labor involved in handling each case.
“With extreme vetting, they are making every single application take longer to review, and processing fewer,” said Melissa Rodgers, the director of programs at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center in San Francisco, who oversees a program to promote citizenship among legal immigrants. “Word gets out that it’s not worth applying,” she said.
Reopenings are a much more difficult balancing act than closings, governors say.
Now that nearly all the states that imposed stay-at-home orders and other restrictions to fight the pandemic have begun to ease them, governors say it’s gotten more complicated than ever to try to balance all the conflicting imperatives.
“The question is, how do you toggle back and make meaningful modifications to the stay-at-home order?” Gov. Gavin Newsom of California said Sunday on CNN. “And that’s where we’re now in this point of friction and a lot of frustration.”
Mr. Newsom has allowed shops in California to offer curbside service, child care providers to reopen, and factories that make consumer products to restart. Restaurants and stores can resume allowing customers inside their premises in 22 of the state’s 58 counties, most of them rural. Some beaches, parks and trails reopened this weekend.
Like a number of other governors, Mr. Newsom, a Democrat, has seen his decisions draw criticism from many sides, as either painfully slow or recklessly fast. And the continued restrictions in much of the state are meeting with some resistance. But he said the risks of a resurgence of the virus remained too great to simply lift them all.
“The realities of previous pandemics around the globe, and those we experienced in the U.S., suggest not just second waves but potential third waves,” he said. “So one has to be very, very sober, as we move forward to this next round of reopenings.”
Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio, a Republican, imposed restrictive measures in the state before many of his Republican colleagues, becoming the first to close schools. The number of new daily cases in the state is down from its peak and has plateaued. Now, as Mr. DeWine looks to reopen the state, he has also chastised those seeking to get ahead of the state orders.
“This is a virus that we’re still learning a lot about,” Mr. DeWine said. “We don’t know a great deal about it, we know more today than we did two months ago, or three months ago.”
Speaking about the situation on Sunday, Mr. DeWine said the restaurant owners “seemed to get control of it last night — we didn’t have to issue any citations,” but that the state was “going to do whatever we have to do if these things occur across Ohio.”
On Friday, restaurants across the state will be allowed to resume service to patrons at outdoor tables.
“All of this is a work in progress,” Mr. DeWine said. “We thought it was a huge risk not to open. But we also know it’s a huge risk in opening.”
Economic recovery may take until late 2021, the Fed chairman says.
Jerome H. Powell, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, said that while he expected the U.S. economy to recover from the sharp and painful downturn brought about by the coronavirus, that process would take time — potentially until the end of 2021.
“This economy will recover; it may take a while,” Mr. Powell said in a preview of the CBS program “60 Minutes,” which is scheduled to air Sunday evening. “It may take a period of time, it could stretch through the end of next year, we don’t really know.”
Asked whether the economy could recover without an effective vaccine, Mr. Powell suggested that it could make a start, but not get all the way there.
“Assuming that there’s not a second wave of the coronavirus, I think you’ll see the economy recover steadily through the second half of this year,” he said. “For the economy to fully recover, people will have to be fully confident, and that may have to await the arrival of a vaccine.”
The interview with Mr. Powell, which CBS said was recorded on May 13, follows a blunt speech he gave the same day, warning that the economy may need more financial support to prevent permanent job losses and waves of bankruptcies.
Health effects of living in poorer areas may align with the pandemic’s impact.
Across the United States, low-income communities of color are exposed to significantly higher levels of pollution, studies have found, and also have higher levels of lung disease and other ailments. Now, scientists are racing to understand whether long-term exposure to air pollution plays a role in the pandemic, particularly since minorities in the country are dying disproportionately.
The science is preliminary, because the coronavirus remains poorly understood. But researchers are finding reason to look closely.
Said Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, an epidemiologist and Detroit’s former health director: “The system has allowed, basically, low-income people and people of color to have to breathe the pollution.”
Congress appears no closer to a deal on further stimulus spending.
The passage of a $3 trillion stimulus package by the House on Friday appeared to bring Congress no closer this weekend to a deal on coronavirus aid, as pleas for more assistance collided with a conservative push to wait and see whether staggered state reopenings and previous aid packages arrest the economic free-fall.
The Republican-controlled Senate is not expected to take up the legislation that the Democratic-controlled House approved on Friday. Instead, the Senate will turn to a number of pending nominations before an expected Memorial Day recess. Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged Republicans to reconsider.
“Time is of the essence,” she said in an interview aired Sunday on the CBS program “Face the Nation.” “In the past bills, they put forth their proposal, and then we worked in a bipartisan way that we anticipate now.”
“They may think it’s OK to pause, but people are hungry across America,” she added. “Hunger doesn’t take a pause.”
Republican leaders have played down what Democrats say is an immediate need for relief, arguing that it was too early to allocate additional funds after Congress previously passed close to $3 trillion in relief.
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, has laid down a “red line,” saying that strengthening liability protections for health workers and businesses moving to reopen must be part of any future package.
Ms. Pelosi said on Sunday that she had “no red lines,” but she singled out a provision in the bill passed on Friday that would strengthen federal protections for essential workers.
“The best protection for our workers and their employers is to follow very good OSHA mandatory guidelines,” she said, referring to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. “That protects the workers, protects their lives, as well as protects the employer if they follow the guidelines. Remember, when people go to work, they go home.”
The legislation the House passed on Friday, which Democratic leaders acknowledged amounted to an opening offer, faces some opposition from within their party, including in the Senate.
“I think what Pelosi did in the House — it is significant,” said Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who caucuses with the Democrats. “I have some disagreements with it, and I want to see the Senate improve on it.”
Fall school openings are shrouded in uncertainty.
A major question on the minds of many parents is whether their children’s schools will reopen in the fall. So far the plans and guidelines that have emerged are a patchwork, and state leaders are divided about whether it is possible to have the schools ready in time and what it will take to do it safely.
Gov. Jared Polis of Colorado said on Sunday that starting the school year open won’t guarantee that they stay that way. “There might be times, if there’s an outbreak at a school, that it has to convert to online for a period of weeks until it’s reasonably safe to return to school,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Governor Polis said his state was considering measures like staggering start times, class schedules and breaks to minimize crowds in hallways.
California will proceed slowly and methodically in allowing crowds to gather again anywhere, including schools, Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Sunday, and that may mean that some schools in the state reopen while others remain closed.
“It’s all predicated on data, on science, not just observed evidence,” he said on CNN. “Each part of California is unique.”
Both governors noted that while children are not often affected as severely by the virus as adults are, they are potential spreaders.
“This is no question from an epidemiological perspective that this is a less severe, almost infinitesimal fatality rate for kids,” Mr. Polis said. “But the thing is, kids live with parents, they live with grandparents, kids are around teachers, so that’s where it gets a little bit more complicated.”
And spreading isn’t the only serious concern. A rare and baffling inflammatory syndrome, possibly linked to Covid-19, that has affected several hundred children across the country was also on officials’ minds.
Drive-in theaters reopen, bringing respite and nostalgia to the lockdown.
At a time when Americans are wary of rubbing elbows with strangers, the drive-in theater, a low-tech vestige of another era, has emerged as a popular escape hatch. One such theater in New York, the Warwick Drive-In, opened on Friday after state officials lifted the bans on certain “low-risk” activities.
As the sun set, masked ticket holders lined up at the snack bar to order candy and buttered popcorn. Children horsed around. Adults sipped beverages.
“It was this or tennis,” said Ivonisa Tesoriero, who was celebrating her 39th birthday, referring to another of the low-risk activities cited by the state. A pile of empty pizza boxes sat on the ground as she chatted with family and friends.
After so many weeks of lockdown when the only movies to see were controlled by your remote, the Warwick Drive-In was a popular draw.
Before sunset, S.U.V.s, sedans and pickup trucks crunched along the gravel road leading to the three screens, about 300 of them herded into a socially distanced formation. On a normal Friday night in May, when there is no pandemic, there would be about 530 cars, said Beth Wilson, the owner of the theater.
Ms. Wilson had received just four days’ notice that she would be allowed to open.
On Monday, as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo discussed at his daily briefing which businesses were being allowed to open, he remarked on the nostalgia. “Talk about going back to the future,” he said with a smile, “back to drive-in movie theaters.”
In two graduation speeches, Obama offered advice to students and criticized U.S. leadership.
Former President Barack Obama delivered two virtual commencement addresses this weekend, mixing advice to graduates with criticism of the United States’ response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“More than anything, this pandemic has fully, finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing,” he said on Saturday in the first address streamed online. “A lot of them aren’t even pretending to be in charge.”
The speeches came as more than two-thirds of states have significantly relaxed restrictions, leaving the nation at a delicate moment.
With states scrambling to pay unemployment claims, a vast attack that flooded unemployment agencies with fraudulent claims appears to have siphoned millions of dollars. Secret Service investigators said they had information implicating a Nigerian fraud ring that filed claims on behalf of people who in many cases had not lost their jobs.
As experts continue to warn that testing needs to be more widely available, the Food and Drug Administration on Saturday granted emergency clearance for a coronavirus testing kit that will enable people to take a nasal sample at home and send it to a laboratory. It was the F.D.A.’s second such approval.
Health issues that affect minority groups are making the pandemic worse, Azar says.
Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of health and human services, suggested in televised remarks on Sunday that the high death toll from Covid-19 in the United States, compared with other nations, was due at least in part to the prevalence of underlying health issues in minority communities.
“Unfortunately, the American population is very diverse, and it is a population with significant unhealthy co-morbidities that do make many individuals in our communities, in particular African-American minority communities, particularly at risk,” Mr. Azar said on the CNN program “State of the Union,” adding, “That is an unfortunate legacy of our health care system that we certainly do need to address.”
The host, Jake Tapper, pressed Mr. Azar on whether he was trying to place the blame for the Covid-19 pandemic on its victims. “I want to give you an opportunity to clear it up,” Mr. Tapper said, “because it sounded like you were saying that the reason that there are so many dead Americans is because we’re unhealthier than the rest of the world, and I know that’s not what you meant.”
Mr. Azar responded: “We have a significantly disproportionate burden of co-morbidities in the United States — obesity, hypertension, diabetes — these are demonstrated facts that make us at risk for any type of disease burden, of course, but that doesn’t mean it’s the fault of the American people.”
For siblings, lockdowns can add tension, but also deeper bonds.
The isolation and close quarters of life under lockdown have shifted the balance in relationships between spouses and partners, employees and bosses, children and parents, students and teachers.
Add to this list a classification of people who typically spend years fighting for resources and turf while seeking to coexist in forced proximity.
We are talking about siblings.
The new reality for brothers and sisters is that they must spend much of their time together, in the absence of friends, school peers or teammates.
Parents say that long days at home are peppered with arguments, but it isn’t just that. Plenty of families are also noticing a positive development on the new home front: the redefining and even deepening of sibling relationships.
U.S. health care workers are hurting.
Medical workers have been celebrated for their commitment to treating coronavirus patients. But even as applause to honor them swells nightly from city windows, and cookies and thank-you notes arrive at hospitals, many doctors, nurses and emergency responders are battling a crushing sense of inadequacy and anxiety.
Every day, they become more susceptible to post-traumatic stress, mental health experts say. And their psychological struggles could impede their ability to continue working with the intensity and focus that their jobs require.
Although the causes for the suicides last month of Dr. Lorna M. Breen, the medical director of the emergency department at NewYork-Presbyterian Allen Hospital, and John Mondello, a New York emergency medical technician, are unknown, the deaths served as a wake-up call about the mental health of medical workers. Even before the pandemic, their professions were pockmarked with burnout and even suicide.
On Wednesday, the World Health Organization issued a report about the pandemic’s impact on mental health, highlighting health care workers as vulnerable. Recent studies of medical workers in China, Canada and Italy who treated Covid-19 patients found soaring rates of anxiety, depression and insomnia.
“Physicians are often very self-reliant and may not easily ask for help” said Dr. Chantal Brazeau, a psychiatrist at the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. “In this time of crisis, with high workload and many uncertainties, this trait can add to the load that they carry internally.”
Coronavirus updates from Times correspondents around the globe.
Unable to travel, some turn to backyard camping.
Think s’mores, stars, the air mattress deflating with a cartoony hiss. Picture children’s faces, fire-lit and, for just another minute, little else. It could happen in farmland, suburbia or the Bronx — and it could be lovely. In lieu of summer vacation, there are also ways to take a vacation at home.
Reporting was contributed by Mike Baker, Karen Barrow, Pam Belluck, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Emily Cochrane, Melina Delkic, Rebecca Halleck, Jan Hoffman, Julia Jacobs, Sheila Kaplan, Clifford Krauss, Michael Levenson, Tariro Mzezewa, Katherine Rosman, Andrea Salcedo, Hiroko Tabuchi and Jim Tankersley.
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