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Phoenix Immigration & Naturalization Law Blog

Getting a passport a prime reason for becoming a citizen

Those living in Arizona or any other state as a permanent resident may not have thought much about becoming a full citizen. However, as a result of recent immigration policies, the number of applications for naturalization is on the rise. In Minnesota alone, there has been an increase of 88 percent since 2016. To apply for citizenship, an individual needs to wait two years, pass a test and take part in a naturalization ceremony.

In most cases, individuals who have a green card are eligible to apply for citizenship within three to five years. Once it is granted, an individual has the same rights as those who were born in the country. This means that he or she will have the right to vote, get a passport and remain in the country. Those who apply for citizenship also have the right to leave the United States and return at their leisure.

Trump asylum ban blocked by federal judge

For people in Arizona who are affected by U.S. immigration law, President Donald Trump's policies have raised a great deal of concern. Political rhetoric has escalated on the issue of immigration, and many people are concerned that their own applications could be negatively impacted as a result. However, there has been a response in the courts; on Nov. 19, a federal judge blocked the Trump administration's attempt to refuse asylum to people who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border without documentation.

The judge heard arguments in the case brought by two civil rights organizations, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights, before issuing a temporary restraining order. On Nov. 9, Trump issued a presidential proclamation saying that people who crossed the southern border outside standard ports of entry would not be eligible to seek asylum. This comes into conflict with standing federal immigration law, which explicitly provides the right to apply for asylum to people who did not enter at standard entry points. If the presidential order is allowed to remain in place, thousands of people fleeing violence may face a more difficult process that could result in deportation.

Migrant caravan stirs asylum debate

Arizona residents have likely read reports about the migrant caravan that's currently making its way from Honduras to the United States. The migrants making this difficult trip say that they are fleeing violence and poverty in their home country and plan to seek asylum in America. The journey is necessary because the rules for asylum claims are strict and individuals must already be in the country or present themselves at a recognized port of entry to apply.

The asylum process was originally put into place by the United Nations in 1951 and became part of U.S. law with the 1990 passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The rules state that asylum should be granted to individuals who can provide credible evidence that they would face persecution if they were forced to return to their home countries based on their race, nationality, religion or beliefs.

Caravan moves closer to border

Arizona might be one destination for a caravan of more than 7,000 people from Central America who are traveling toward the U.S. border. Although many of these immigrants may plan to apply for asylum and expect to be accepted, experts say that acceptance is unlikely.

This is the largest known caravan to travel to the border. In April, 1,500 people from Central America reached the border, but just 250 are currently still in the country. Asylum has been granted to just three of them. Around the same time that caravan arrived, the policy of family separation began. This has been modified to give parents a choice between remaining in detention with their children or having their children released while they remain in detention. This appears to be unlikely to deter asylum seekers.

Diplomatic visa policy bars unmarried same-sex partners

People in Arizona who are concerned with LGBT rights and immigration issues may be disturbed to learn about a Trump administration policy announcement concerning diplomatic visas for the same-sex domestic partners of foreign diplomats. The administration ordered unmarried domestic partners to marry before the end of 2018 or lose their visas and ability to stay in the country. The policy would apply to foreign diplomats and United Nations employees, whose unmarried same-sex partners were given until Dec. 31 to show proof of marriage to the State Department.

According to the U.S. mission to the United Nations, the policy is merely an update to international visa practices that reflects existing U.S. law and the legality of same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage was legalized throughout the country in 2015 in a Supreme Court ruling and, since then, policy has required that new diplomatic visas only be issued to married spouses. However, human rights advocates criticized the move, even if the U.S. claims to treat opposite-sex and same-sex spouses equally in visa policies.

Use of public benefits could put a visa or green card at risk

Those wishing to enter Arizona or immigrants already residing in the country legally could experience trouble getting visas or green cards if they collect public benefits. The Trump administration has put forward a new rule that would alter an existing law that already curtailed the ability of immigrants to get documentation to live in the country if they had received cash benefits. After the public comment period, the proposed rule could expand the disqualifying benefits to include food assistance, Section 8 housing vouchers, Medicaid or the Medicare Part D low-income subsidy.

The concept of preventing immigrants from collecting welfare emerged in the 19th century. Known as the public charge rule, it was designed to turn away immigrants who might drain public funds. A representative from the National Immigration Law Center described the currently proposed restrictions as a way to favor wealthy immigrants and disrupt attempts by families of limited economic means to unite with relatives.

A bureaucratic 'wall' delays immigrant citizenship

Making the adjustment to the American way of life can be difficult for some lawful permanent resident immigrants as they take the necessary steps to become U.S. citizens. One aspect of which many immigrants are experiencing first-hand is the often cumbersome American bureaucracy. Although there has a backlog for years, since the Trump administration has assumed the reins of power, the time required to become a citizen has doubled or tripled in Arizona and most areas of the country. In sections where there are large immigrant communities, the wait could be four to six times as long.

Critics of the administration suggest a nefarious scheme is at hand while supporters point out there are good reasons for the delays. Administration officials suggest part of the responsibility for the delay is due to Obama-era changes in lengthening the application and point out the numbers of new citizens has remained consistent over the years.

H-4 visa rule faces final clearance review

The debate over immigration has been contentious in Arizona and around the country since Donald Trump announced that he would be running for president in 2015, and the row over H1-B visas has been particularly fierce. These are the employment-based visas that allow companies to attract job candidates from overseas when workers with the necessary skills cannot be found locally, but critics of the program say that technology firms in particular take advantage of H1-B visas and use them to bring in cheap foreign labor instead of paying fair market rates to Americans.

The furor over employment-based visas has also raised questions about whether or not the spouses and minor children of H1-B visa holders, who are issued what are known as H-4 visas, should be allowed to work in the United States. President Trump thinks they should not, and he proposed that the rules be changed to reflect his views when he signed his 'Buy American and Hire American" executive order in April. The proposed rule change only apples to certain H-4 visa holders, but the executive order does not make clear how these decisions will be made.

ICE reportedly targeting married undocumented immigrants

The Trump administration's hardline immigration stance has resulted in many deportations from Arizona and the rest of the nation. While the government may try to claim that the immigration policies are focused on law and order, that claim is belied by the recent focus on deporting undocumented immigrants who are married to U.S. citizens.

According to news sources, officers with Immigration and Customs Enforcement are working with the United States Customs and Immigration Service to entrap and arrest married undocumented people when they come in for interviews. Regulations from the Obama administration that allow undocumented people who are married to U.S. citizens to remain in the U.S. while they are waiting for their green cards still are the law. Despite these regulations, ICE agents have reportedly been attending USCIS interviews so that they can arrest and deport the immigrants when they come to their interviews.

Fewer immigrants passing credible fear interviews

Those who enter the United States in Arizona or other recognized locations may request asylum upon arrival. The first step in obtaining asylum is the credible fear interview. This is when an individual shows evidence such as physical wounds to a government agent. However, there is no guarantee that a person will be found credible. One woman was denied despite showing scars and a hand with missing fingers after an attack in Honduras.

Despite her story and the physical evidence to go along with it, her claim was rejected. This is because the United States has changed its asylum policy to exclude those seeking protection from gang or domestic violence at home. According to the Trump administration, the fact that 75 percent of immigrants seeking asylum passed the credible fear review was not a positive thing. The director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said that the bar to pass the review had been set too low.

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