The United States of America: Land of the Free, if You Can Become a Citizen

Immigrating to the United States is by no means an easy task. But, becoming a U.S. citizen is even harder. Many administrations in the past have tried to combat this migration crisis, while others sometimes hindered the progress made. Throughout the Bush, Obama, Trump, and Biden administrations there have been varying results of changes made. 

While examining the past administrations and their involvement with immigration to the U.S., it is important to keep in mind that what they say their stance is may differ from their actions. For example, Obama campaigned on cutting down deportation rates but he proceeded to increase deportation rates by 10% in 2012 compared to Bush’s rate in 2008.

After Obama, there was not much improvement with the Trump administration. Trump on the other hand campaigned on the removal of immigrants and the building of a wall in order to keep immigrants out. The administration rescinded two policies that were pivotal in Obama’s fight against deportation, DACA, and DAPA.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA): A policy that allowed youth, who were brought into the U.S. as children, to defer action from deportation and obtain a work permit for two years. 

Deferreds Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA): An act to try and prevent the separation of families who have U.S.-born children and those who were lawful permanent residents. 

Now, at the start of the Biden administration, there is a lot of hope amongst the immigrant community. Following the Trump administration, he realizes that there are a lot of restrictions that need to be reversed. While we patiently await Biden’s ability to deliver on his promises, there is still a lot to be discussed on the current process of becoming a citizen of the United States. 

One way to ease the hardships faced by immigrants daily would be allowing children protected under DACA to receive full U.S. citizenship. While in the grand scheme of things, having U.S. citizenship does not seem necessary when they are able to reside within the U.S. for 2+ years, it is more so what they are not able to do. In Dulce,  a documentary that takes an in-depth look into the life of a 17-year-old Harrisonburg High School Student, the struggles are seen through real-life examples. The teenager was shown in the documentary going about her day-to-day life at high school. While her accomplishments were noteworthy and her academic drive was evident, she was unable to apply to college due to her lack of citizenship. Giving the children protected under DACA citizenship would take little, if anything at all, from current citizens. All that would need to happen would be for the government to check that box and grant a social security number to the children who were unable to choose whether or not to come to the United States. 

Another way to make applying for U.S. citizenship more accessible to immigrants would be to cut the costs necessary for the application. Currently, the cost to just submit an application is $640, plus a mandatory $85 biometrics fee. Refugees who come to the U.S., fleeing their country due to war, persecution, or natural disaster, more likely than not have very few belongings. In addition to no belongings, they have little to no funds at their disposal. Without citizenship, there are not many ways to get a job to have a source of income. Overall, there is an endless cycle leading back to the need for U.S. citizenship. 

While I understand the issue is more complicated than just allowing more refugees into the United States, I also believe that the ability to become a U.S. citizen is being withheld from many for no viable reason. Many administrations have tried countless approaches to fixing the global migration crisis, but part of the problem that has been overlooked is the ability of those who seek refuge in the United States to become a naturalized U.S. citizens.

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