Students Attempt to Obtain Citizenship Status, Face Challenges

As of 2017, 1,461 international students were enrolled at the UofA, according to UA International Students and Scholars.


Although U.S. citizenship applications are on the rise, the zero-tolerance policy has scared potential applicants into the shadows by separating families despite them not posing a danger to society, a UA instructor said.

Today’s climate surrounding immigration has influenced some UA students and faculty members to consider seeking their citizenship. Applying for citizenship is a process that immigrants today are hastening to complete to avoid deportation under the Trump administration, said Zoe Naylor, UA political science instructor and lawyer.

“While [the zero-tolerance policy] has been increasing the number of citizenship applicants, it is scaring others into the shadows, ripping families apart when they are not dangerous to society,” Naylor said.

The zero-tolerance policy calls for the prosecution of immigrants who illegally enter the U.S. Because of the policy, parents are separated from their children to be prosecuted while their children go into the custody of a sponsor.

Naylor thinks the zero-tolerance policy may cause labor shortages because of a decrease in the worker population, leading to innocent American children being separated from their parents, she said.

The UofA has 1,461 international students from 120 countries as of fall 2017, according to UA International Students and Scholars website.

Naylor first came to the U.S. with her family from Sydney when her dad’s employment provided them green cards in 2003. While green cards allow for permanent residence, they must be renewed every 10 years. Eligibility for a green card is dependent on a familial connection or employment in the U.S. or special immigration status. With a green card, foreign nationals cannot leave the country for six months, and are at risk to lose it at any time, Naylor said.

Georgia Carmody, a freshman international student from Australia received her citizenship in the U.S. two years ago while being a citizen of Australia. Carmody was able to do this because her dad is a U.S. citizen, and this meets the family green card eligibility requirement of being an unmarried child of a U.S. citizen under 21 years of age, Carmody said.

Other reasons for eligibility include being a refugee, asylee, human trafficking victim, crime victim, victim of abuse, having resided in the U.S. before 1972 or other reasons approved by the Department of State, according to the U.S. Citizen Immigration Services website.

Naylor became a dual citizen of Australia and the U.S. in 2013 so she could move freely between the U.S. and Australia to visit her family and vote in the U.S. elections, she said.

Senior Ana Moradel is in the process of obtaining her citizenship along with her entire family. One of the main reasons her parents decided to apply for citizenship instead of renewing their green card was because of the recent zero-tolerance policy instituted in October 2017 under President Donald Trump’s administration, Moradel said.

“Even if you’re not a citizen, it doesn’t mean you’re any less than. We are all human,” Moradel said.

The Moradels are from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, and have lived in Springdale for the past eight years. In Ana’s case, Honduras will allow for her and her family to retain their citizenship there, too. For her, becoming a U.S. citizen means greater opportunities for scholarships and career aspects. She has a better sense of security knowing she will soon be a citizen of the U.S., Moradel said.

“You can be anything you want in America, but there are a lot of economic and dangerous setbacks in Honduras,” Moradel said.

The fear of deportation is what prompted Moradel and her family to pursue citizenship when they did, she said.

“I would like to feel like the U.S. is not my temporary home but that it is my home,” Moradel said.

The first step in applying for citizenship is filling out the N400 application for naturalization from the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services. This application asks for personal history information and two passport-style photos. Next, the applicant will likely need to schedule a biometrics appointment for the U.S. Citizen Immigration Services to collect the applicant’s fingerprints, photos and signature. The third step is an interview with U.S. Citizen Immigration Services. After this there is a naturalization test, which usually involves an English and civics test. The test can also be taken in Spanish. To finalize an applicant’s citizenship, they must take the Oath of Allegiance, according to the U.S. Citizen Immigration Services.

“The U.S. Citizen Immigration Services are looking more closely at citizenship applications and are keeping a close eye on applicants’ criminal records,” Naylor said. “Fraud is one of the main reasons citizenship applications are denied.”

Applicants must be a permanent resident for three-to-five years before they are eligible to fill out the N400 form, which is one of the first steps in applying. The next step is going to an U.S. Citizen Immigration Services office. Applicants’ fingerprints are run through an FBI database at the office, Naylor said.

If the applicants are still eligible, they are contacted five months later by an U.S. Citizen Immigration Services office and interviewed before completing a reading, writing and civics test. After passing these tests, there is a swearing-in ceremony at a local courthouse where new citizens take the Oath of Allegiance, Naylor said.

The citizenship process is handled the same in Arkansas as it is in every state, but some states may take longer to file applications and schedule procedures, depending on population size, Naylor said.

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