The Importance of Naturalization—Its More than just the Right to Vote.
Many clients come to our offices who have been Lawful Permanent Residents, or “Green Card Holders” for many years. Many have even applied to renew their Green Cards after they have expired. When this happens, we always suggest that these people apply for U.S. Citizenship. First, it saves them money as the government filing fee for the Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card, is nearly as much as the government filing fee for a Naturalization application. Second, once one becomes a United States Citizen, she is now outside the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security and cannot be deported.
Many people who have Green Cards do not understand that they can be removed from the United States and in some instances not ever be allowed to enter the United States again, even if their immediate family is all American citizens. We have at times represented clients with Aggravated Felonies—a classification of crimes unique to the immigration laws. And while that description may sound like particularly grave crimes, they actually include misdemeanors. And any domestic violence or drug charge or even two shoplifting charges makes one subject to deportation. You may believe—rightfully so—that you would not think of committing any crime—but there are many, many persons in our jails and prisons who did not commit the crimes they were accused of. And the Immigration Court process is sometimes so rapid that going back to appeal or prove your innocence is not possible—you will already be outside the country.
And sometimes the State Attorneys fight to obtain a conviction that qualifies as an Aggravated Felony, even for seemingly minor violations of the law. One of the more egregious examples of this recently came from the County Attorney in Washington County, Utah—the county encompassing the city of St. George, Utah in southern Utah. There the County Attorney was charging those driving with a “false” driver’s license with “fraud” and only accepting a sentence of 365 days, which, even if suspended where the Defendant serves no jail time—qualifies as an Aggravated Felony. So for driving on a fake Driver’s License—it is a life sentence outside the United States away from your family. Just so the County Attorney can seem “tough on crime and immigration” and get re-elected.
United States citizenship also bestows many other benefits, such as the right to vote and the ability to secure certain jobs—both with the government and also in the private sector. Certain benefits of estate planning are only available to citizens, as well as certain means tested government benefits.
United States Citizenship is a treasured asset and is envied by persons all over the world. The hard part is getting Lawful Permanent Residence. Applying for U.S. Citizenship is faster, cheaper and a shorter time to wait for the interview with USCIS. It is a No-Brainer!!