The New York Times ran an interesting article recently titled: ” Citizenship Applications Surge as Immigration Talk Toughens.”
The article begins with the story of a 49 year old man who has had a green card for almost a decade talking about how he felt safe in the U.S with his green card. He did not feel that becoming a U.S. Citizen was a priority. In addition, the need to study for an oral civics test, the application fee and the time he would need to take off of work discouraged him. He felt attached to the U.S. However, he changed his mind after the new President took office.
“All this tough talk about immigrants got me thinking I still could be deported,” said Mr. Bernal, 49, a homeowner who is married and the father of two teenagers born in the United States. “You never know.”
“Last week, he was among 3,542 immigrants who raised their right hands to take the oath at a naturalization ceremony inside the Los Angeles Convention Center.”
Many feel that even having a green card is not enough to protect themselves in these current times.
“Naturalization applications generally spike during presidential cycles and fall after an election. But this year, the volume of applications is on track to surpass that of 2016, as a perennial backlog continues to pile up. It is the first time in 20 years that applications have not slipped after a presidential election, according to analysis by the National Partnership for New Americans, an immigrant rights coalition of 37 groups. And with an unrelenting stream of hard-line rhetoric and enforcement in the news, as well as a swell of citizenship drives and advocacy, there are no signs the trend is abating.
About 8.8 million people are eligible to become American citizens, meaning they have been lawful permanent residents, or had a green card, for at least five years.
In the first three quarters of the 2017 fiscal year — from Oct. 1, 2016, through June 30, the latest period for which data is available — 783,330 people filed applications, compared with the 725,925 who filed during the same months a year earlier. The current figure is well on pace to surpass the 971,242 who applied in the 2016 fiscal year.
With the surge of applications, the processing backlog has ballooned. There were 708,638 pending applications at the end of June, a steady rise from 522,565 at the end of the 2016 fiscal year and 291,833 in 2010. The average wait time has doubled, to 8.6 months from four months a few years ago, with applicants in cities like Dallas, Houston, Las Vegas and Miami waiting a year or longer.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, which processes the applications, said it was enlisting officers to work overtime and seeking to fill vacancies, noting “there is no quick fix” for the delays.””
The article goes on to explain that green cards ” can be revoked, and green card holders can be deported if they are convicted on charges such as aggravated felonies, drug trafficking and crimes of “moral turpitude,” which can be broadly defined. Each time a permanent resident leaves the United States, re-entry is at the discretion of an immigration official.
Citizenship protects immigrants from deportation if they commit a crime, and gives them access to federal benefits and jobs that are restricted to citizens.”