The Key to Unlocking Your American Dream: Why Citizenship Matters

Imagine holding a golden key in your hands—a key that unlocks a treasure chest filled with rights, freedoms, and opportunities. For many immigrants in the U.S., this isn’t just a daydream; it’s a reality waiting to be grasped. That golden key? U.S. citizenship. It’s the final step in the immigration journey. If you’ve been living in the U.S. with a green card and meet all the requirements, stepping up to citizenship can transform your life in ways you might not have imagined. 

Meeting the Mark: The Citizenship Checklist 

Before diving into the treasure chest, let’s ensure you have the map. To apply for U.S. citizenship through naturalization, you typically need to have been a permanent resident (green card holder) for at least five years (or three years if you’re married to a U.S. citizen). Plus, you should have been physically present in the U.S. for at least half of that time, have a basic knowledge of English and U.S. history and government, and be a person of good moral character. It sounds like a tall order, but for many, it’s a checklist worth completing. 

Five Unbeatable Advantages of U.S. Citizenship 

1. Voting Power: As a citizen, you get a voice in the country’s future. You can vote in federal elections, a privilege that shapes laws, policies, and leadership. It’s your chance to stand up for what matters to you and your community. 

2. No More Green Card Renewals: Wave goodbye to the hassle and expense of renewing your green card every 10 years. Citizenship is for life. Plus, you won’t have to worry about the risk of losing your status if you decide to live outside the U.S. for an extended period of time. 

3. Family Reunification: Citizens have a faster track to bring family members to the U.S. You can petition for your spouse, unmarried children under 21, and even your parents to get their green cards, reuniting your family sooner. 

4. Federal Jobs and Benefits: Dream of working for the government or needing access to certain social benefits? Some jobs and benefits are only available to U.S. citizens, opening doors to new opportunities and support systems. 

5. Passport Privileges: Traveling becomes a breeze with a U.S. passport, one of the most powerful in the world. You’ll enjoy visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to numerous countries, and the comfort of U.S. government support while abroad. 

Your Call to Action: Embrace Your Future 

If you’re holding a green card and meet the criteria for citizenship, consider this your rallying cry. U.S. citizenship isn’t just a status; it’s a commitment to your future and the future of your family. It’s a step toward securing your place in a country that’s now your home, with all the rights and responsibilities that come with it. Don’t let uncertainty or the busyness of life keep you from seizing this opportunity. The process might seem daunting, but resources and support are available to guide you every step of the way. 

Embrace your American dream with open arms. Citizenship is more than a certificate or a passport; it’s a promise of freedom, opportunity, and belonging. If you’re eligible, take the leap. The benefits are clear, the path is laid out, and the time is now. Your journey to U.S. citizenship isn’t just about you—it’s a legacy for your family, a vote of confidence in your community, and a testament to your hard work and dedication. Unlock the door to your future today, and step into a brighter tomorrow. 

For those ready to take this significant step, Catholic Charities Fort Worth Immigration Services is here to assist you. From verifying your eligibility to preparing your application packet and providing legal representation until your case’s conclusion, their team of relentless professionals is ready to support you throughout the entire process. Learn more about how they can help by visiting Your American dream is within reach, and Catholic Charities Fort Worth is here to guide you every step of the way. 

Celebrating 40 Years of Catholic Charities Immigration Services

Catholic Charities Fort Worth was awarded “recognition” by the Department of Justice on December 8, 1983. That marks, then, the official birth of our department. We were among the first 35 recognized organizations among the 400 that are active today. As we celebrate our 40th anniversary, we do so as one of the longest continuously running departments of the agency.

The United States Federal Law establishes that an organization that is a non-profit religious, charitable, social service, or similar organization that provides immigration legal services primarily to low-income and indigent clients within the United States, and, if the organization charges fees, has a written policy for accommodating clients unable to pay fees for immigration legal services.” (8 CFR 1292.11(a)(1))

And meets other criteria can be “Recognized” by the Department of Justice. This is part of a program described as allowing non-attorney “Accredited Representatives” to represent aliens before the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), which includes the immigration courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). These representatives are accredited through the Recognition and Accreditation (R&A) Program, which aims to increase the availability of competent immigration legal representation for low-income and indigent persons, thereby promoting the effective and efficient administration of justice. Accredited Representatives may only provide immigration legal services through Recognized Organizations. In accordance with the Executive Office for Immigration Review, only non-profit, federally tax-exempt entities may apply to be recognized.

Since 1983, CCFW Immigration Services has been able to help thousands of people navigate the complex U.S. immigration process. We have been part of many landmark moments in the history of the immigration system to the U.S. such as the Refugee Act of 1980 (formalizing the refugee program into the U.S.), the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986, the USA PATRIOT Act after 9/11 that saw the creation of DHS, and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in 2012, among others. All those occasions created a surge in the demand for services and, every time, the department rose to the occasion to serve as many as humanly possible.

Through the years, the department has emphasized three things: as many as possible, as fast as possible, as good as possible. This allows us to aim at three principal areas. One, the ability to serve as many people as we can because the need is big. Second, the aim of serving in an expedited and timely manner, without unnecessary delays. Third, a serious commitment to ethics, and high quality. We will not go beyond what the law allows a client to do, and we will not cut corners in the preparation of the application packets that we submit on behalf of our clients.

We are an organization that does more than answer questions or fill out forms. We provide complete legal services that start with consultation and culminate in complete legal representation in front of the Federal Agencies handling the cases. To achieve our goals, we focus on our staff and our technology. Our staff maintains a regular schedule of continuous education training that is specific to the practice of immigration law. We also belong to national professional organizations in our field, including the Catholic

Legal Immigration Network, Inc (CLINIC), the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), and the Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild. This helps us stay at the forefront of the changes of law and procedures. We also make concerted efforts to keep our technology up to date to better serve our clients. We utilize a state-of-the-art case management system that allows for continuous monitoring of the cases and communication with the clients. We observe the highest industry standards to handle the delicate information that we have from our clients.

We grow year over year in the fine tuning of our processes to accommodate the specific needs of our clients. We accommodate the specific trends that we see and are nimble enough to modify our procedures while maintaining our core elements. We remained open through all the COVID pandemic. We were able to move to a hybrid model and our clients adapted with us to the new realities. We establish clear goals for our department that not only focus on outputs but have several outcome indicators as well to monitor our timeliness, our quality, and how our operations function.

After 40 years, we look back with great gratitude and humility for everything that has been done and how many people we have been able to serve. Everyone in our current staff is either an immigrant themselves or an immediate relative of one. Therefore, when we look at the present, we do it with a deep sense of responsibility and empathy. We walked this road. We know how stressful it is, how scary it can be, how vulnerable one can feel.

As we look to the future, we see challenges ahead. We see the need of many for an immigration system that works in the 2020s. We see the need for a nation that must adapt to the new realities that are vastly different from the last time the law was overhauled. We are not afraid. We are thankful to be able to do this job every day. Whatever lies ahead, we will handle it, for as many as we can, as fast as we can, as good as we can.

Temporary Protected Status

Temporary Protected Status, TPS for short, is a special designation from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) of a country where the current conditions prevent the safe return of its nationals currently in the US. The reasons for a country to receive that designation include wars, natural disasters, or other extraordinary temporary circumstances.

Countries Designated for TPS

The following countries are currently under TPS designation:

  • Burma (Myanmar)
  • El Salvador
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • Nepal
  • Nicaragua
  • Somalia
  • Sudan
  • South Sudan
  • Syria
  • Venezuela
  • Yemen

In recent days the DHS has announced that Ukraine and Afghanistan are in the process of receiving this designation and soon the nationals of these countries will be able to apply for TPS protection.

Who can benefit from TPS?

Who can benefit from TPS? TPS benefits are reserved for citizens of the countries designated by the DHS, AND that are present in the US by the date established by the date that the country receives the designation. All nationals of those countries that arrive to the US past that date will not be eligible. Additionally, there is a specific registration period by which those wishing to benefit from TPS need to submit their application.

What exactly are the benefits offered?

TPS is an 18 month protection period at the end of which the DHS evaluates the country’s conditions and determines if it is possible to end TPS for that particular country or if they will re-designate the country for another 18 months. The specific benefits include:

Individuals with TPS are protected from deportation from the US

Can obtain an employment authorization document (EAD)

May be granted authorization to travel abroad and return to the US

Finally,  individuals with TPS cannot be detained by the DHS based on their immigration status in the United States.

What are the limitations of TPS?

TPS is only for a limited number of people already present in the US at the time that it is enacted. It does offer protection for other individuals that are fleeing the same dire circumstances but who are outside the US at the time. Also, TPS is, as indicated in the name, a temporary relief. It does not lead to any other immigration benefit and does not place the beneficiary on track to lawful permanent residency (green card). However, TPS does not preclude the beneficiary to pursue other immigration benefits for which they might be eligible.

Final Thoughts

Nationals from Ukraine and Afghanistan should be looking forward to the formal announcement of the date when the period of initial registration starts. If you or someone you know might benefit from TPS you can schedule a consultation and our team will be happy to provide all the assistance needed for a successful application for TPS.

Novedades sobre DACA

El Departamento de Seguridad Doméstico decidió tomar medidas sobre DACA después de la decisión de la Corte Suprema de ordenarles restaurar el programa tal como se estableció el 15 de junio de 2012. DHS ha rescindido los memorandos que eliminaron DACA y en su lugar modificó el memorando original de 2012. DHS ha implementado los siguientes cambios que tienen un alto impacto en todos los beneficiarios actuales de DACA y en aquellos que buscaban solicitar el beneficio por primera vez.

• USCIS no aceptará ninguna solicitud nueva para DACA inicial y, si ya se sometieron después de la decisión de la Corte Suprema, serán devueltas y se reembolsará el pago. No hay sanciones para aquellos que evitaron sus solicitudes y se les devuelva.

• USCIS continuará procesando todas las solicitudes de renovación sin ningún cambio en el proceso.

• El período durante el cual se otorga la acción diferida y la autorización de empleo se ha reducido de dos años a uno.

• Estas nuevas regulaciones por sí solas no son motivo para rescindir los beneficios de DACA de nadie.

• A menos que haya circunstancias muy especiales, el USCIS rechazará todas las solicitudes de advanced parole(comúnmente conocido como permiso para viajar) para todos los beneficiarios de DACA y devolverá las que hayan sido sometidas.

• DACA continúa siendo un beneficio discrecional y puede ser denegado o revocado bajo las circunstancias apropiadas.

• USCIS mantendrá al día las preguntas frecuentes de DACA y las instrucciones de el formulario I-821D.

News on DACA

The Department of Homeland Security has decided to take action on DACA after the decision of the Supreme Court ordering them to restore the program as it was established on June 15, 2012. DHS has rescinded the memorandums that eliminated DACA and instead modified the original memorandum from 2012. DHS has implemented the following changes that have a high impact on all current DACA beneficiaries and on those that were seeking to apply for the first time.

• USCIS will not accept any new applications for initial DACA, and, if they were already filed following the Supreme Court decision, they will be returned and the payment refunded. There are no penalties for those that filed and are having their applications returned.
• USCIS will continue processing all renewal applications without any changes to the process.
• The period for which the deferred action and the employment authorization is granted has been reduced from two years to one.
• These new regulations alone are not reason to terminate anyone’s DACA benefits.
• Unless there are very special circumstances, USCIS will reject all applications for advanced parole (commonly known as permission to travel) for all DACA beneficiaries and will return those that have been filed.
• DACA continues being a discretionary benefit, and it can be denied or revoked under the appropriate circumstances.
• USCIS will keep up to date the DACA FAQs and instructions to form I-821D.

Decisión de la Corte Suprema acerca de DACA

Decisión de SCOTUS sobre DACA

Hoy, 18 de Junio de 2020, el Tribunal Supremo de los Estados Unidos publicó  su decisión en contra de la administración en su intento de poner fin a DACA y la regresa a su estado original como fue establecida en el 2012. La Acción Diferida para los Llegados en la Infancia es un beneficio temporal basado en una orden ejecutiva emitida en el 2012 por el entonces presidente Obama. El orden otorgaba dos años acción diferida (hacía de sus casos baja prioridad para deportación) a todos los menores de 31 años de edad para el 15 de agosto, 2012 que habían llegado a los EE.UU. bajo la edad de 16 años antes del 15 de junio de 2007, junto con eso , autorización de empleo. Los beneficiarios también tuvieron que demostrar que habían residido continuamente en los EE.UU. desde su llegada, tenían antecedentes penales limpios, se había graduado de High School, habían obtenido un GED, o se inscribieron en la escuela y estaban trabajando hacia uno u otro. Los solicitantes también tenían que tener más de 15 años , y el beneficio era discrecional e individual, lo que no permitía compartir este beneficio con los miembros de la familia. El beneficio estaba supeditado a que el solicitante mantuviera un historial criminal limpio y tenía que renovarse cada dos años a un costo de $495 cada vez que lo renovara. Alrededor de 700k personas se beneficiaron de este programa y se han convertido en una parte intrínseca de nuestra sociedad. La actual crisis de Covid-19 ha demostrado que muchos de los beneficiarios de DACA se consideran “trabajadores esenciales , ” trabajando en diversos campos desde médicos, enfermeras y paramédicos, hasta los trabajadores de producción y suministro de alimentos.

Una de las promesas de campaña de la administración actual era derogar DACA, que, dado que DACA se basa en una orden ejecutiva presidencial , él tendría la autoridad para hacerlo . La derogación oficial de DACA se produjo en septiembre de 2017. Esa decisión fue impugnada de inmediato en diferentes tribunales por diferentes grupos. Una orden judicial fue colocado , y, a pesar de que no se podía aceptar nuevas aplicaciones, los que ya tenía DACA podrían continuar renovando el beneficio cada dos años, como fue establecido originalmente. El caso de avanzó todo el camino a la Corte Suprema , y hoy emitieron una decisión en contra de la administración. En pocas palabras, el tribunal estableció en su opinión mayoritaria que la derogación de DACA no era sostenible. La decisión no se basa en razones constitucionales, y no niega la autoridad de la administración a anular la orden. La decisión del tribunal se basa estrictamente en cuestiones de procedimiento. El problema no radica en lo que se hizo , sino en la forma en que se hizo.

¿Qué significa esto en el futuro? La administración podría decidir seguir adelante y empezar de nuevo su intento de dejar sin efecto el programa y tratar de seguir el procedimiento adecuado de manera de prevalecer en los tribunales, en caso de impugnación.

Para los beneficiarios de DACA , las cosas siguen siendo las mismas. Nada ha cambiado con el programa con la decisión de hoy. Sin embargo, se pueden presentar nuevas solicitudes iniciales de DACA aunque el alcance del programa no ha cambiado. Sin embargo, esas 700k que están protegidas por DACA continuarán siéndolo, siempre y cuando cumplan con los requisitos. Por lo tanto, son elegibles para continuar la solicitud de renovación cada dos años, como lo han estado haciendo y los que son elegibles pueden presentar sus solicitudes iniciales.

Hoy es un día feliz para los beneficiarios de DACA, los defensores y todas las personas de buena voluntad. Sin embargo, DACA sigue siendo un beneficio muy limitado y vulnerable. Se necesita mucho más y solo puede llegar a través de la legislación. Por lo tanto, el siguiente paso para apoyar a los beneficiarios de DACA y otros que ni siquiera tienen ese beneficio es algo que ellos no lo pueden hacer por sí mismos. Nos corresponde a nosotros , ciudadanos de los Estados Unidos, exigir acciones del congreso y ejercer nuestro derecho a votar en las próximas elecciones. Pero hoy, hoy celebramos.

SCOTUS decision on DACA

SCOTUS decision on DACA

Today, June 18, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States published its decision against the administration in its quest to terminate DACA and return the programa to what it was when it was enacted in 2012. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is a temporary benefit based on an executive order issued in 2012 by then President Obama. The order granted two years deferred action to all those under 31 years of age by August 15, 2012 that have arrived to the US under the age of 16 prior to June 15, 2007 (making their case low priority for enforcement) and, along with that, employment authorization. The beneficiaries also had to show that they have continuously resided in the US since arrival, had a clean criminal record, had graduated from high school, had obtained a GED, or were enrolled in school and working toward either one. Applicants also had to be over 15 years old, and the benefit was discretionary and individual, not allowing this benefit to be shared with family members. The benefit was contingent on the applicant maintaining a clean criminal record and had to be renewed every two years at a cost of $495 each time it was renewed. About 700k people benefited from this program and have become an intricate part of our society. The current COVID-19 crisis has shown that many DACA beneficiaries are considered “essential workers,” laboring in diverse fields from doctors, nurses, and EMTs, to food production and supply workers.

One of the campaign promises of the current administration was to repeal DACA, which, since DACA is based on a presidential executive order, he would have the authority to do. The official repeal of DACA came in September 2017. That decision was immediately challenged in different courts by different groups. An injunction was placed, and, even though no new applications were to be accepted, those that already had DACA could continue renewing the benefit every two years as it was originally established. The case navigated all the way to the SCOTUS, and today they issued a decision against the administration. In a nutshell, the court established in its majority opinion that the repeal of DACA was not sustainable. The decision is not based on constitutional grounds, nor does it deny the authority of the administration to rescind the order. The decision of the court is strictly based on procedural issues. The problem did not lie in what was done, but the manner in which it was done.

What does this mean going forward? The administration could decide to go ahead and start again its attempt to rescind the program and try to follow the appropriate procedure so it will hold up in court, if challenged.

For the beneficiaries of DACA, things remain the same. Nothing has changed with the program from today’s decision. However, new, initial DACA applications can be filed but the scope of the program has not changed. However, those 700k that are protected under DACA will continue to be so, as long as they meet the requirements. Therefore, they are eligible to continue applying for renewals every two years as they have been doing and new eligible applicants can file now for the first time.

Today is a happy day for DACA recipients, advocates, and all people of good will. However, DACA remains a very limited and vulnerable benefit. Much more is needed and it can only come via legislation. Therefore, the next step to support DACA beneficiaries and others that don’t even have that benefit is something that they cannot do by themselves. It falls on us, citizens of the United States, to demand action from Congress and to exercise our right to vote in the upcoming elections. But today, today we celebrate.

Nueva proclamación restringiendo a ciertos immigrantes

El miércoles 22 de abril de 2020, la administración actual emitió una orden ejecutiva sobre inmigración. El objetivo declarado de la administración es que están “… tomando medidas para detener temporalmente la inmigración y proteger a los trabajadores estadounidenses mientras nos enfrentamos al coronavirus”. Independientemente de la validez de esos objetivos y la efectividad de esta medida, el hecho es que ahora está en efecto y está alterando la forma en que opera el sistema de inmigración. Esta proclamación tiene una duración de 60 días a partir del 23 de abril de 2020. Después de 30 días, revisarán y considerarán si es necesario expandirla a algunas categorías de no inmigrante. A más tardar el día 50 de la prohibición, considerarán si una extensión es necesaria o no.

El impacto directo es que, mientras esta proclamación esté vigente, aproximadamente un tercio del número de tarjetas de residencia (“green cards”) emitidas cada año no podrá emitirse (de 1.1 millones de tarjetas de residencia que se emiten cada año, unas 358,000 no serían aprobadas bajo esta proclamación). Esto es suficiente para preocupar a los defensores y personas de buena voluntad y para esparcir el miedo entre las comunidades inmigrantes. Sin embargo, al observar más de cerca la proclamación, notamos que el escenario es un poco menos sombrío de lo que podría haber sido. Analicemos los puntos principales de la proclamación.

¿A quién se aplica la proclamación?

No-ciudadanos que:

  • Están fuera de los Estados Unidos
  • No tienen una visa de inmigrante válida; y
  • No tienen documentos de viaje válidos, como permiso de reingreso, papel de embarque o carta de transporte.

¿Quién está exento de la proclamación?

  • Residentes legales permanentes
  • Solicitantes de visa de inmigrante en las siguientes categorías:
    • Cónyuges e hijos solteros menores de 21 años de ciudadanos estadounidenses y ciertos hijos adoptados
  • Solicitantes de visa de inmigrantes especiales en la categoría SI o SQ
  • Solicitantes de visa de inversionista EB-5
  • Cualquier miembro, y cualquier cónyuge e hijos de un miembro, de las Fuerzas Armadas de los Estados Unidos
  • Profesionales de la salud y ciertos investigadores médicos que realizan trabajos relacionados con COVID-19, y cualquier cónyuge e hijos solteros menores de 21 años.
  • Individuos cuya entrada promovería objetivos importantes de aplicación de la ley de los Estados Unidos
  • Individuos cuya entrada sería de interés nacional

¿ A quién NO se aplica la proclamación?

  • Inmigrantes ya presentes en los Estados Unidos, incluidos aquellos que buscan un Ajuste de Estatus
  • Personas que buscan asilo, estatus de refugiado, retención de deportación o protección bajo la Convención contra la Tortura
  • Individuos que buscan visas de no inmigrante. 

Con eso en mente, cualquier persona dentro de los Estados Unidos que reúna los requisitos para solicitar una tarjeta de residente todavía puede hacerlo, y debe procesarse normalmente. Además, cualquier ciudadano estadounidense elegible o residente legal permanente puede presentar peticiones familiares, incluso para miembros de la familia que están en el extranjero y se verían afectados por la proclamación. En conclusión, esta proclamación afecta principalmente el procesamiento de visas de inmigrantes (“green cards”) en los Consulados de los Estados Unidos en todo el mundo. Sin embargo, desde el comienzo de la crisis de COVID-19, todos los Consulados han estado cerrados y no están procesando estas solicitudes; por lo tanto, nada está cambiando actualmente en la práctica. Como de costumbre, le recomendamos encarecidamente que busque asesoramiento legal personalizado antes de tomar cualquier medida relacionada con su caso de inmigración.

New proclamation restricting certain immigrants

On Wednesday, April 22, 2020, the current administration issued an executive order regarding immigration. The stated goal of the administration is that they are “…taking action to temporarily pause immigration and protect American workers as we confront the coronavirus.” Regardless of the validity of those goals and the effectiveness of this measure, the fact remains that it is now in place, and it is affecting the way the immigration system operates. This proclamation has a duration of 60 days from April 23, 2020. After 30 days, they will review and consider if it is necessary to expand to some non-immigrant categories. On no later than day 50 of the ban, they will consider if an extension is necessary or not.

The direct impact is that, while this proclamation is in effect, about a third of the number of green cards issued every year will not be able to be issued (out of 1.1 million green cards that are issued each year, some 358,000 would not be approved under this proclamation). This is enough to bring concern to advocates and people of good will and to spread fear among the immigrant communities. However, upon closer observation of the proclamation, we notice that the scenario is a bit less bleak than it could have been. Let us break down the main points of the proclamation.

Who does the proclamation apply to?

Non-citizens who:

  • Are outside the United States
  • Do not have a valid immigrant visa; and
  • Do not have valid travel documents such as Advance Parole, Boarding Foil, or Transportation Letter.

Who is exempt from the proclamation?

  • Lawful permanent residents
  • Immigrant visa applicants in the following categories:
    • Spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age of U.S. citizens and certain prospective adoptees
  • Special Immigrant Visa applicants in the SI or SQ category
  • EB-5 investor visa applicants
  • Any member, and any spouse and children of a member, of the United States Armed Forces
  • Health care professionals and certain medical researchers performing work related to COVID-19, and any spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old
  • Individuals whose entry would further important United States law enforcement objectives
  • Individuals whose entry would be in the national interest

Who does the proclamation NOT apply to?

  • Immigrants already present in the United States, including those seeking Adjustment of Status
  • People seeking asylum, refugee status, withholding of removal or protection under the Convention Against Torture
  • Individuals seeking non-immigrant visas.  

With that in mind, anybody inside the United States eligible to apply for a green card is still able to do it, and it should be processed normally. Additionally, any eligible U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident can file family petitions, even for family members that are abroad and would be affected by the proclamation. In conclusion, this proclamation affects mainly the processing of immigrant visas (‘green cards”) at the US Consulates throughout the world. However, since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, all Consulates have been closed and are not processing these applications; therefore, nothing is changing at present in the practice. As usual, we strongly suggest you seek personalized legal advice before taking any action regarding your immigration case.