I’ve gone to many Naturalization swearing-in ceremonies where my clients and friends take the Oath of Allegience to the United States. During a part of the ceremony, the presiding Judge asks each person in the courtroom who is swearing in to become a U.S. Citizen that day to state their name and the country where they’re originally from. As you can imagine, the courtroom is packed with people from all around the world, and when they state their names and countries, you hear all different accents. But when it’s time to swear in and the group as a whole must recite the Oath of Allegiance, you hear no accents. You don’t even hear hundreds of voices. All you hear is one collective proud voice.
There are many reasons to become a U.S. Citizen, pride in one’s country being one of them. But from a more practical standpoint, others reasons exist as well:
- you can vote in State and Federal elections
- you can apply for a Federal job
- you cannot be deported from the U.S.
I want to talk a little bit about the last reason I’ve stated. As you know, I’m an immigration lawyer in Virginia Beach, but my firm represents people from all around the world. And with a busy immigration practice, we have seen the best of immigration (like our clients swearing in), and the worst (clients ordered deported). Earlier in my career, I helplessly watched a young mother get deported back to a country she had last seen as a toddler. There was nothing we could do for her due to drug convictions on her record. After a plea for prosecutorial discretion was ultimately denied, she had to leave the U.S.
I remember telling my dad about this case at the time. My dad joined the U.S. Navy in order to immigrate to the U.S. in the late 60s, and he eventually naturalized. The first thing my dad said was, “why didn’t she ever become a U.S. Citizen?” I was expecting to get sympathy, but instead I got a matter-of-fact would-be solution to all of my client’s problems (parents are always right, aren’t they?).
And so, it was from that day forward that I really pushed my clients and friends who were Lawful Permanent Residents to become U.S. Citizens when eligible. And while all the reasons listed above like I said are good ones, the best one in my mind, after going through this gut wrenching experience of watching a client get deported, was so I wouldn’t have to see another family needlessly go through that ordeal again.
Well, maybe you’re reading this and thinking: “I don’t do drugs” or “I don’t break the law.” To that I say, people get wrongly accused and convicted of crimes every single day and those crimes could be deportable crimes. Why take the chance? Did you know that something as minor as a petty theft conviction with a 12-month sentence in Virginia can land a Lawful Permanent Resident in deportation/removal proceedings? So it doesn’t have to be the crime of the century for you to get put in proceedings and possibly ultimately deported.
Sometimes my clients learn the hard way like the young mother I mentioned. To me, this client was just like me – we were both the same age and both moms, but I got the luck of birth by being born in a Naval Hospital in Virginia. Maybe you weren’t born in the U.S. like I was, but for yourself and for your family, become a U.S. Citizen if you’re eligible. I really can’t emphasize that enough.
In my next post, I will discuss the Steps to Becoming a U.S. Citizen.