The Importance of Becoming a Citizen

Resurrecting my blog in light of the Trump administration who I believe will lead an all out assault on immigrants, people of color, and workers. What follows is an old post from my old blog, slightly updated:

If there is one thing I stress to my clients who have recently become lawful permanent residents it’s the importance of becoming a United States citizen if they intend to stay in the United States.

The reason I make sure my clients are thinking about this issue even though they have just become permanent residents, is that as a resident you have far fewer rights than a United States citizen. In fact, other than basic due process rights under the US Constitution your life in the United States is dictated by the political winds blowing through Washington D.C., which, right now, are ill indeed.

Needless to say, at this moment in United States history, with a Donald Trump’s shadow looming over America, and anti-immigrant forces trailing closely behind, this has become more important than ever.

2o years ago, IIRAIRA was enacted with devastating effects on many lawful permanent residents and their families. It removed forms of relief and created new grounds for removal which were retroactive. In other words, lawful permanent residents were (and are) being removed for acts they committed, or at least said they committed as part of a plea agreement, years ago.

An example is HR4437: this ridiculously harsh bill the House passed in 2005 not only made it an “aggravated felony” to be in the United States without status it made anyone who assists a person who is here without status an aggravated felon as well. This wasn’t only applicable to smugglers as the bill has a separate penalties for those who are assisting for profit. In other words, family members, clergy, attorneys, anyone that may do something (arguably anything as the language of the bill is very broad) that causes the individual to stay in the United States while out of status.

As mixed status families (families with some undocumented members and members who are in the United States legally) are common such a bill would likely create a situation where the undocumented immigrant gets removed but also the family members may be charged with an aggravated felony and subject to removal as well. Being charged with an aggravated felony would likely preclude the family member from seeking any relief from removal and they could be removed no matter how long they have been in the United States.

That bill was never implemented but it is not hard to see how the Trump administration and GOP Congress would push it through now that they are in complete control of all three branches of the United States government.

On the other hand, a US citizen cannot be removed from the United States so this adds another reason why it is important to pursue naturalization if you are eligible and if you intend to remain in the United States