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Citizenship And Naturalization

True Citizenship And Naturalization Stories: Obstacles On The Road To Becoming A United States Citizen

Citizenship is the end goal of most immigrants who want to live in the U.S. In other words, naturalization is the American way for long-term legalization. It should remain that way.

The path to success is not always straight-forward. Various problems can and do arise before, during, and even after the citizenship application process.

Feel free to explore the news articles and posts in this section. As a U.S. citizenship and naturalization lawyer, I have hand-picked true stories from around the internet illustrating pitfalls and traps, barriers and obstacles which immigrants have encountered on their road to success and life in America.

In this immigration news roundup, you’ll learn about:

  • No Shame: A Deportation Policy For Those Who Voluntarily Signed Up To Protect The Country
  • Women Stripped Of U.S. Citizenship Because Of Marriages To Immigrants
  • Citizenship After A Missed Generation
  • A Really, Really Tough Question On Citizenship: Birth In Air Space
  • Flaws In Donald Trump’s Attack On Birthright Citizenship
  • A Military Service Path To U.S. Citizenship
  • Citizenship Denied Over 20 Years . . . On A Law Which Does Not Exist
  • A 97 Year Road To U.S. Citizenship
  • Filing Fees For Citizenship: Too Much To Ask?
  • USCIS Fear Of Middle Eastern Bogeyman Exposed By ACLU Report: Racial, Ethnic, And Religious Profiling

No Shame: A Deportation Policy For Those Who Voluntarily Signed Up To Protect The Country

The Pentagon promised citizenship to immigrants who served. Now it might help deport them.

The Pentagon is considering a plan to cancel enlistment contracts for 1,000 foreign-born recruits without legal immigration status, knowingly exposing them to deportation, a Defense Department memo shows.


I’m not the biggest fan of military service. After all, I’d prefer a world at peace.

But I understand reality. Part of that reality is that many innocent, good young men and women enter the armed service as a sense of loyalty to the country.

So when the government promises immigrants a path to citizenship if they sign up for the military and then change course on them after they have already joined, xenophobic politics have went too far.

A promise, after all, is a promise, right?


Women Stripped Of U.S. Citizenship Because Of Marriages To Immigrants: A Lesson In American Immigration History

That Time American Women Lost Their Citizenship Because They Married Foreigners

subscribe to Code Switch podcast In March of 1907, Congress passed the Expatriation Act, which decreed, among other things, that U.S. women who married non-citizens were no longer Americans. If their husband later became a naturalized citizen, they could go through the naturalization process to regain citizenship.


The history of immigration in the United States has many unflattering moments.  This article discusses one not commonly known to most of the American public.

It raises an issue, which is not how most people today think about immigration in America today.

Well, at least, I hope not.

However, given some of the proposals floated in Congress, I would not be surprised if there are xenophobic immigration opponents who would strip both males and females upon marrying a non-citizen lurking in the political shadows.


A Really, Really Tough Question On Citizenship: Birth In Air Space

Baby born on board long-haul flight

A woman has given birth during a Los Angeles-bound China Airlines flight after unexpectedly going into labour.

I don’t want to get too law schoolish on you but this news does raise a lot of tough questions.

Here’s one: Is the child a U.S. citizen?

Before you answer, let’s image that the woman was a conditional lawful permanent resident, leaving to take a break from her U.S. husband. They never got back together.

She did not remove her conditions and did not become a regular LPR.

She did not return to the U.S. and the father never held himself out as the father of the child.

When the child was born, the plane was not in U.S. air space.

Now, you’re the judge. And the answer . . .

(Now I’m wondering why this case has not already landed on my desk already – since I get so many bizarre fact patterns thrown my way.)


Flaws In Donald Trump’s Attack On Birthright Citizenship

15 Reasons Why Trump’s Plan To End Birthright Citizenship Is A Horrible Idea

Donald Trump doesn’t want children born in America to get U.S. citizenship if their parents are in the country illegally, as a part of his 100-200 billion dollar deportation plan . Birthright citizenship, legally known as jus soli guarantees the right of citizenship to people born on American soil.

In the view of Presidential candidate Donald Trump, the 14th Amendment guarantee of birthright citizenship is the biggest magnet for undocumented immigrants, calling it the biggest driver of illegal immigration. However, as Cedar Attanasio recently noted, many holes exist in Trump’s his position.

Frankly, Attansasio is too nice. I don’t just think Trump’s notions are horrible. I think they’re fundamentally flawed and border on being a Looney Tunes type of political insanity.

Here are the main points raised by Attansasio, which I think are most critical in showing why the Trump Plan is off-base:

  • The “magnet” argument has never been proven: there is no no empirical evidence that ending citizenship rights would act as a deterrent to unauthorized immigration.
  • Repealing the 14th Amendment might disenfranchise second-generation immigrants, but it doesn’t mean they won’t be in the country; it’s no magic deportation wand.
  • The undocumented population in the country would swell. The currently number of immigrants living in the shadows would grow to 16 million if the law were limited to children with two parents in the country illegally; if it included just one parent living here without permission, the number would be about 25 million.
  • The economy suffers when immigrants must stay in the shadows. No matter what skills they have, the ones that are here generally do better and contribute more to society when they have the legal protection of citizenship or a visa.
  • Anchor babies mythology. U.S. citizens children cannot sponsor parents until they are 21 years old, making anyone using the anchor baby scheme unlikely to succeed.

Many other GOP candidates for president have jumped in to support the misguided approach asserted by Trump, to one degree or another. All of them need to take a closer look at the legal reality facing undocumented immigrant parents of so-called anchor babies.


A Military Service Path To U.S. Citizenship

Army Expands Program That Expedites U.S. Citizenship For Recruits With Sought-After Skills

On Friday, the maximum number of recruits for the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program increased from 1,500 to 3,000 for the 2015 fiscal year. Next year, the program is going to be expanded to up to 5,000 recruits.


Under the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program, immigrants with special medical and language skills are eligible to become naturalized citizens immediately after they complete basic training.

MANVI began as a pilot program in 2008 with a annual cap of 1,000 enrollees. Since that time, the Army has recruited about 4,000 soldiers through the MANVI program.

Recently, the government announced a new push focused on attracting young immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children and qualify for work temporary work authorization and suspension of deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

According to Army spokesperson, Hank Minitrez, “The MAVNI program has been extremely successful in filling our ranks with highly qualified soldiers who fill critical shortages.”

Despite the obvious needs of the Army, several immigrant reform opponents have taken a strong stance against MAVNI. Most of these critics are also opposed to DACA and have blocked actions to enact the DREAM Act, for which military service has long been one of the options to earn legal residency status.

Several legalization advocates are likewise critical of the program. They cite false promises made to immigrants who served in war and combat.

At present, several hundred immigrant military veterans face deportation charges. They, too, had dreams of U.S. citizenship when they joined the armed services. Many started the paperwork. But their paperwork was not processed due to bureaucratic nightmares and errors.

What safeguards now exist, they ask, to protect against similar outcomes for the immigrant youth of today?

Moreover, what happens if the political winds shift?


Citizenship Denied Over 20 Years . . . On A Law Which Does Not Exist

Mexicans denied U.S. citizenship for decades under clause that doesn’t exist

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – For more than two decades, Sigifredo Saldana Iracheta insisted he was a U.S. citizen, repeatedly explaining to immigration officials that he was born to an American father and a Mexican mother in a city just south of the Texas border.


This story discusses an error of huge proportions.

An American citizen being deported four times because of a law that doesn’t exist sounds like the plot of a Hollywood movie.

Sadly, this is a true story.

For more than two decades, Sigifredo Saldana Iracheta kept telling immigration officials he was a U.S. citizen, born to an American father and a Mexican mother in a city just south of the Texas border.

Year after year, the federal government rejected his claims, deporting him at least four times.  At one point, he was detained for nearly two years as he sought permission to join his wife and three children in South Texas.

In rejecting Saldana’s bid for citizenship, the government kept applying an old law that cited Article 314 of the Mexican Constitution, which supposedly dealt with legitimizing out-of-wedlock births. But there was a problem: The Mexican Constitution has no such article.

His claims were continuously rejected.

Not once, not twice, not three times.

Four times.

That beats a former client of mine, who, after failing twice to win his citizenship status, lost his confidence and applied for permanent residence – before he finally proved citizenship on his third try.

At a hearing before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the government lawyer explained the mistake on a “typo.”

In response, Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod scolded the government attorney, “You all have been citing this over and over again to people for years now, and you can’t even look it up in Mexican law.”

The judge was correct but may not have gone far enough.

Did Saldana ever have an attorney represent him in the earlier cases?

And what about the judges in those earlier cases?

Was anyone awake besides Saldana?

Perhaps worse, it is not know how many immigrants, like Saldana, have been deported under the same flawed interpretation of a non-existent law.

I agree with the judge. How could the government cite a law which doesn’t exist?

A few heads should be rolling and the pink slips should be issued.

Even as a long time citizenship attorney with over 20 years experience, I find it almost unfathomable that the government would commit the same error over and over again – and it’s amazing this gentleman was willing to fight so long and so hard in opposition.

In my view, a few heads should be rolling and pink slips should be issued.


A 97 Year Road To U.S. Citizenship

99-year-old woman sworn in as an American citizen

Elia Guzman de Salinas waited almost a century to see one of her dreams come true. With tears in her eyes, the 99-year-old woman was sworn in as an American citizen on Wednesday afternoon. It was standing room only at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services building for the ceremony.


Some people never quit. Here is an interesting story about a woman who, at the age of 99, finally became a U.S. citizen.

At times, people come into my office assuming the road to citizenship is an easy path.

They’ve been led to believe that since they have been permanent residents for over five years, the next step is automatic. It’s not.

Take Elia Guzman de Salinas.

An immigrant from Mexico, she entered the U.S. at the age of two. A few days ago, she became a naturalized citizen.

At the age of 99, surrounded by her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and great great grandchildren, Elia raised her right hand and was sworn in.

“Before I died, I wanted to accomplish my dream of becoming a U.S. citizen, and thanks be to God I was able to reach that goal,” Elia said.

Elisa said she’s looking forward to enjoying the rights that many Americans take for granted, especially voting.

Elisa’s case demonstrates the road to naturalization is not simple.

On the other hand, to the best of my knowledge, Elisa’s 97 year journey must set the record for longest wait.

Congratulations, Elisa.


Citizenship Filing Fees: Too Much To Ask?

Explainer: Why It Costs Immigrants $680 to Apply for Naturalization

Immigration reform is a numbers game. And one of those numbers is $680-the price of applying for naturalization, the process that turns green card-holders into citizens. Politicians like Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel are decrying that number, saying the cost is too high.


For many immigrants, especially those working in low wage positions, the cost of $680 is a lot of money.

Fee critics assert the filing cost is a barrier for the working poor, relegating naturalization as a privilege only affordable by wealthy immigrants. They add that the increase from $225.00 at the beginning of the George W. Bush administration to $680.00 creates a systemic barrier to poorer and less educated immigrants.

So where does that total come from, and where does the money go? Are the fees set at an unreasonable level?

In my opinion, three reasons suggest they are not.

First, the immigrant view. Citizenship fees are an investment in one’s future, not a mere expense draining one’s bank account. A person’s future in the United States is more secure, allowing them more economic and social opportunities – than if that individual remains a lawful permanent resident.

This is especially true for those who one day slip up and commit an offense. Lawful permanent residents remain at constant danger of losing their immigration status.

Not so with naturalized citizens.

Second, the immigration advocate view. Filing fees for naturalization are significantly lower than filing fees to become a lawful permanent resident. Moreover, an immigrant does not go from undocumented status to citizenship. There is a stop-over at lawful permanent resident status for a minimum of 3 – 5 years.

During that period, the immigrant is able to legally work in the U.S. Their wages, in most instances, will be greater than those of undocumented immigrants filing for green cards. With a little planning, the $680 can be saved or borrowed, and there are organizations which will subsidize individuals who meet the financial guidelines.

Third, the government view. Someone one has to pay for the government machinery which processes the applications of would-be citizens. There is enough snide criticism made about immigrants already. Why give opponents more fuel for the fire? Why ask for government assistance at this stage, when full citizenship is only one step away?

(Presumably, the fees also help to underwrite the costs of creating a more efficient naturalization bureaucracy . . . and that’s definitely a good outcome.)

Now, what about when attorney fees are added? That’s another question.

Many lawyers will negotiate their fees as well as the terms for payment. Immigrants should not let attorney fees deter them. The “I cannot afford attorney fees” mantra is not an absolute truism, especially for immigrants with employment authorization.

Overall, since the value of citizenship in the long-term far exceeds the actual dollars to be spent on filing fees, I don’t feel the $680 fee is too high.


USCIS Fear Of Middle Eastern Bogeyman Exposed By ACLU Report: Racial, Ethnic, And Religious Profiling

Muslims Need Not Apply: CARRP

Millions of aspiring Americans apply to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) each year. But under a previously unknown national security program known as the “Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program” (CARRP), the government excludes many applicants from Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian communities from these opportunities by delaying and denying their applications without legal authority.


While some Congressional representatives are busy opposing what they term “special paths” to citizenship, immigration and law enforcement officials secretly closed off regular paths to legalization for certain immigrant groups.

In particular, the American Civil Liberties Union has uncovered Muslims and Middle Eastern immigrants were subjected to administrative blacklisting, as well as ethnic and religious profiling, when they sought immigration benefits.

According to the ACLU’s report, the special program, entitled the Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program (CARPP), made immigration authorities subservient to federal law enforcement agencies, like the FBI, in matters involving the targeted groups.

Being an immigration attorney, the news is not surprising. One of the reasons for the creation of the Department of Homeland Security was to fight international terrorism. This fight, in the government’s view, has always been seen as a battle against Muslims and Middle Easterns.

(And whenever bad news occurs, as in San Bernardino, where the couple responsible for the “terrorist” rampage were married after a Fiancé(e) visas, is sure to heighten DHS concerns.)

I suspected something was awry several years ago. All of my cases involving persons born in the Middle East began to take long periods to complete. Despite inquiry after inquiry after inquiry, I could not get clear, if any, answers from immigration authorities. After a few experiences, I sensed the delays were the norm, not the exception.

I began to advise my Middle Eastern clients to expect long waiting periods before their applications would be processed. They, too, sensed there was a government witch hunt taking place. Nonetheless, the frustration would sometimes build to a point where they were unsure if my office was advocating strong enough for them – questioning whether immigration lawyers were somehow in cahoots with government agencies.

Such responses are not irrational under the circumstances they were experiencing.

In early 2010, South Carolina Congressman J. Gresham Barrett’s introduced The Stop Terrorists Entry Program (STEP) Act. Ostensibly, the legislation was aimed at Iranians, whom, if the bill passed, would not have been allowed to attend U.S. colleges any more. In addition, the STEP Act sought to make it illegal for Iranians to travel to the United States, except for medical emergencies and political and asylum after “extensive federal screening.”

The STEP Act was only the tip of the iceberg. It reflected a sentiment in certain political circles not only against Iranians, but also against all Middle Eastern immigrants. CARPP fit into this line of thinking.

In response, I decided to write about our foolish national propensity to perceive Middle Eastern immigrants as bogeymen hiding in dark corners, wanting to do Americans harm. (http://bataraonimmigration.wordpress.com/2010/03/08/the-step-act-pursuit-of-the-iranian-bogeyman)

With the ACLU report, maybe our government will now stop the nonsensical approach to immigration cases involving Muslims and Middle Eastern immigrants.

It’s time for us to stop being afraid of our own shadows.

Immigration News Curation By Carlos Batara

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