Permanent Residents Should Consider Naturalizing
This is a Presidential Election year. It is February, and we have been hearing lots of campaign promises since last summer. Back then, many of us thought Donald Trump was an entertainer using the presidential primaries to increase his popularity. Now we know that Mr. Trump’s campaign is not going away – he appears to be prepared to accept the Republican party nomination later this year. He has also shown that he has no problem with a blanket ban of all Muslims from entering the United States, regardless of whether they are Syrian refugees. He also believes every undocumented person has to be deported, albeit “humanely.” On the other political side of the race, Hillary Clinton has indicated she supports immigration reform with a path to citizenship for undocumented people in the United States, but has supported President Obama’s recent initiative to arrest and deport Central Americans who entered the United States illegally, many of who came to flee violence in their home countries and to seek refuge.
There are many people in the United States who will vote, and who will be elected President this year remains to be seen. There are also many people who cannot vote. Since only citizens of the United States can vote, Permanent Residents of the United States (people with “greencards”), who reside in this country and are subject to the same tax laws as citizens, are not eligible to vote. Many permanent resident clients of mine have told me that they feel comfortable just having their greencard and do not care to naturalize.
My general advice to permanent residents is that the name is misleading – permanent residence is not permanent. A permanent resident might abandon their residence in the United States if they are absent from the United States for a period of several months or more. A permanent resident may be placed in deportation proceedings in immigration court if he commits certain crimes, even relatively minor ones.
However, this year I feel compelled to advise permanent residents who are eligible to naturalize to do so not simply to protect their ability to live and work in the United States, but also because it is important for people who know that blanket anti-immigrant policies are bad for our country to speak up. Voting is one major way to do this. Indeed, two of the Republican presidential candidates (Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio) are the sons of refugees from Cuba. I personally feel that many of their opinions regarding U.S. immigration policies are completely illegitimate in light of the benefits that Cubans receive in the U.S. immigration system – benefits that no other country receives.
Whatever your particular personal opinions, voting is the strongest way to express them this year, but you can only vote if you are a U.S. citizen. Permanent Residents can even lose their residence for voting or registering to vote in a United States election. You have strong opinions about this year’s election issues and are a permanent resident, consult with an experienced attorney about your eligibility for naturalization now, while you still have time to become a citizen before November 8th!
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