Archive for the ‘Citizenship’ Category

California Immigration Measures Challenge Traditional Conception of Citizenship and Noncitizen Rights

October 16, 2013

Immigrant RightsCalifornia is leading the nation in the adoption of immigrant friendly laws “with measures to permit noncitizens to sit on juries and monitor polls for elections in which they cannot vote and to open the practice of law even to those here illegally.”  Under one of the new laws, immigrants will be able to “monitor polls during elections, help translate instructions and offer other assistance to voting citizens.”  Another law will allow individuals brought into the country illegally as children to practice law in California.

These reforms may be due, in large part, to the democrat’s firm hold on both the Governor’s seat and the legislature.  However, democrats are not solely responsible for the immigrant friendly policies, with reforms like granting drivers’ licenses to unauthorized immigrants passing with the support of many republicans.

With adoption of immigration friendly policies across the states, these laws are raising questions about traditional views of citizenship, while at the same time responding to the 3.5 million Californians who are not US citizens, an estimated 2.5 million of whom are in the country illegally.  According to UCLA Law professor, Hiroshi Motomura, the reforms represent “a recognition that how people are living and working in their community might trump their formal legal status.”

Despite the broad support many of the polices have received, skepticism remains for some of the reforms, in particular allowing immigrants who are in the country illegally to sit on juries.  According to some, allowing individuals from significantly different socio-cultural backgrounds to sit in judgment of US citizens may create difficulties in enforcing social norms.

New Bill Would Require Hospitals to Check Immigration Status

February 27, 2013

A recently introduced bill in Arizona would require hospital staff to check the immigration status of uninsured patients before providing them with medical care. If a person enters a hospital for treatment and cannot prove that they are in the United States legally, the bill would require hospital staff to alert the either federal immigration officials or members of local law enforcement.

The bill, H.B. 2293, is the creation of Republican state Rep. Steve Smith. According to Smith, the bill is not meant to withhold medical care, but rather to collect data on how many illegal immigrants are receiving free medical care within the United States. Advocates of immigrants rights, who believe that the bill asks hospitals to monitor illegal immigration, have been quick to vocalize their strong opposition to the bill.

Officials of the National Coalition for Immigrant Women’s Rights, who have referred to Smith’s bill as “unconscionable,” believe that the bill, if implemented, would stop immigrants and their families from seeking necessary and preventative medical care. According to executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, “This bill would legalize harassment of immigrants and, in fact, of any woman who looks like she could be an immigrant.”

Obama Renews Immigration Push

February 13, 2013

President Barack Obama has set his sights on an immigration overhaul, and providing millions with legal status in the United States. Recent reports indicate that an agreement to reach these very goals has nearly been reached within a bipartisan Senate working group.

Obama’s renewed immigration push is expected to build off of the immigration principles he had previously outlined, however has yet to act on. In 2011, Obama unveiled an immigration blueprint which included creating a pathway for illegal immigrants to gain citizenship, heightening border security, implementing mandatory penalties for those who employ unauthorized immigrants, and improving the legal immigration system.

Obama has not yet had a chance to implement the ideas outlined in his blueprint. According to White House press secretary, Jay Carney, “What has been absent in the time since he put those principles forward has been a willingness by Republicans, generally speaking, to move forward with comprehensive immigration reform.” According to Carney, Obama hopes that “that dynamic has changed.”

The process of immigration reform will no doubt be contentious and emotional. It may also have strong political implications, as President Obama received overwhelming Latino support in the 2012 election. Of the Latino vote, which accounted for 10 percent of the November 2012 electorate, 70 percent went to Obama.

More States Deny Driver’s Licences to Deferred Action Immigrants

January 16, 2013

Screen Shot 2012-12-28 at 8.33.25 PMThe state of Iowa has now joined Michigan, Nebraska, and Arizona in denying driver’s licenses and non-operator identification cards to illegal immigrants who have been spared from immediate deportation under President Obama’s new immigration policy. According to NPR, the four states are denying identification cards to illegal immigrants because Obama’s deferred action program does not grant legal status in the United States.

Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman has vowed to go further than simply denying identification to illegal immigrants. He recently pledged to deny deferred deportation immigrants welfare benefits and other state services as allowable under state law. States that do issue drivers licenses to illegal immigrants include Washington and New Mexico. Illinois may be next, as the Illinois Senate has recently approved a related bill. Immigration advocates argue that illegal immigrants under deferred deportation status are eligible to receive driver’s licenses under the 2005 Real ID Act.

Most republicans have denounced the deferred deportation program as a backdoor amnesty policy designed to garner support for Obama among the Latino population for the 2012 election. Nevertheless, the program has been popular among the population of those eligible to seek its benefits. The latest government figures show that, since the deferred deportation program was implemented last August, 103,000 applicants have been approved.

Anti-DREAM Act Candidate Was Once an Illegal Immigrant

December 12, 2012

Many republican politicians have voiced their opposition to the DREAM Act. One such republican politician is Pedro Rios, who recently lost his bid for California State Assembly in the November 6, 2012, general election. Rios differs from most anti-DREAM Act politicians, however, because Rios himself was illegally smuggled into the United States when he was just nine years old.

Rios grew up in a small village in Sinaloa state, where the highest level of education offered at the time was sixth grade. His uncle was allowed to smuggle him into the United States after convincing Rios’ parents that Rios could get a better education in the United States. Rios later became a United States citizen through the provisions of then-President Ronald Reagan’s Immigration and Reform Control Act of 1986.

The DREAM Act would allow qualifying young illegal immigrants to apply for residency. According communications director for the California Democratic Party Tenoch Flores, “[Rios] has said very clearly that he opposes the DREAM act.” According to Flores, this stance is “hypocritical.” Rios believes that his statement has been taken out of context, explaining, “I stand for a long, sustainable immigration reform . . . that will give illegal immigrants in this country an opportunity to become citizens.”

Citizenship Basics and Immigration Visas: Traveling to and From the Virgin Islands

August 29, 2012

Although the U.S. Virgin Islands are a territory of the United States, U.S. citizens need to be wary of travel requirements to make travel to and from the U.S. Virgin Islands as smooth as possible.

Travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands for U.S. citizens is like traveling to any domestic location. For citizens arriving from the mainland or Puerto Rico, a passport is not required for entry. For non-U.S. citizens, requirements for entry into the U.S. Virgin Islands parallel those for non-citizens entering the United States from any foreign destination.

Although U.S. citizen travelers are not required to present a passport for entry into the U.S. Virgin Islands, it is a good idea to bring one. Because the U.S. Virgin Islands are considered a port of entry, U.S. citizens are required to prove their citizenship before returning to the United States. This can be done with a passport, certified birth certificate and photo identification, or certificate of naturalization.

U.S. citizens may return with $1,600 of duty-free imports. Citizens traveling with family members who live within their household may make a joint declaration (i.e. a husband and wife traveling to the U.S. Virgin Islands from the United States may return with $3,200 of duty-free imports).

For non-U.S. citizens traveling from the U.S. Virgin Islands to the mainland or Puerto Rico, the requirements for exit depend on whether the traveler’s country of citizenship participates in the Visa Waiver Pilot Program. If the traveler is a citizen of a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Pilot Program, he must have a Green I-94W, or a valid non-immigrant visa and white I-94. If the traveler is a citizen of a country that does not participate in the Visa Waiver Pilot Program, he needs a valid, non-immigrant visa with the white I-94.

What to Expect During the Naturalization Process

August 1, 2012

Through the naturalization process, people who did not acquire/derive United States citizenship automatically at birth retain the opportunity to become a United States citizen. To ensure the process goes smoothly, applicants should develop a thorough under understanding of the naturalization process before beginning their application.

The first step in the naturalization process is to determine whether you are even eligible for naturalization. If you are a qualified spouse of a U.S. Citizen, you must show continuous residence in the United States for three years prior to filing your application. For all other applicants, the requirement is raised to five years. Additionally, if you are a spouse of a qualified U.S. citizen, you must show that you have been physically present in the U.S. for eighteen months within the three years before filing your application. For all other applicants, this requirement is raised to thirty months. The Immigration and Nationality Act offers several exceptions to these requirements, listed at Section 316, ¶ (b), (c), & (f).

The next step is for eligible applicants to complete Form N-400, “Application for Naturalization.” Along with the application, applicants will need two passport-style photographs, a fee (currently $595), and other documents required by Form N-400. For applicants residing in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the application, fee, and accompanying documents should be sent to the USCIS Lockbox Facility in Dallas, TX.

After completing the initial application, applicants will be fingerprinted and interviewed at a USCIS office. At the interview, applicants are placed under oath and asked a variety of questions about their background, residency, character, attachment to the Constitution, and other evidence concerning their case. The USCIS officers will also administer both an English and a civics test.  During the English test, applicants are asked to read one of three sentences in English, and write one of three sentences in English. For the civics test, applicants must orally answer ten questions about U.S. history and government. Applicants must answer six questions correctly to pass the civics test. All potential questions are available here.

Applicants may be told whether or not they will be granted citizenship at the conclusion of their interview. In some instances, cases will be “continued,” meaning that the case is put on hold. This likely means that the applicant failed one or both tests, or failed to provide all necessary documents Applicants with continued cases may need to return for a second interview or provide additional documents. Applicants who are denied will receive a written notice explaining why. Denial may be appealed by filing Form N-336. The appeal must be filed, along with the applicable fee, within 30 days after the applicant receives his denial letter.

For more information on the naturalization process, read the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s publication, A Guide to Naturalization.