When you’re a green card holder, it’s subject to the discretion of the government. That word “permanent” means nothing.
Interviewer: Here are just one or two more questions on immigration law. You’re great at talking about this. It’s very interesting. Are there any other unusual things that people could have done that would cause them to be deported? What if they’ve filed bankruptcy, or they took out a loan and defaulted on it? For example, if they have a conviction for a non-violent crime?
If You Are a Permanent Resident, Your Children Are Automatically Citizens
Jeanne: No, that’s not an issue. You would think that one of the positive aspects of becoming a citizen would be that you become a citizen. Well, guess what? If you are a permanent resident, and you’re children are permanent residents, and you naturalize, they automatically become citizens.
You have saved them the trouble. For example, let’s say your child is 12, just beginning those troubling teenage years. You have automatically changed his life. Because he might turn out great, but he might run into some issues as he becomes 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 years old. Do you really want, on top of everything else you’re going to have to deal with that young man, do you really want to have to worry about he’s going to be deported?
When You Become a Naturalized Citizen, You Can Do More for Your Family
When you could have just naturalized yourself and he’s automatically a citizen. That’s excellent. When you’re a citizen, you do have the right to vote. Citizens can put in for more of their family than permanent residents can.
I’m sure you know people who groan and moan about jury duty. I’ve been called for jury duty. I’ve never been selected to be on a jury, but I realize that it’s part of the process, because I’ve utilized juries in some of my representation. Sometimes there’s people who are moan, “Aw, I got a jury duty card.” Well, you don’t get called for jury duty if you’re not a citizen. If you are a citizen, you do.
Some people might go, “Well, ha! I’ll just not become a citizen. I won’t have to worry about that.” Well, guess what? If the only people who are selected for juries are US citizens, and you’re not a US citizen and you do run afoul of the law, how can we truly believe that your interests are being protected if every single person on that jury is different than you in that one fundamental way?
Interviewer: It makes you look good that you made the effort to naturalize and become a citizen, which will serve you well later on possibly.
Without Citizenship Status, Permanent Residents Have Difficulty if They Travel out of the Country for an Extended Time
Jeanne: Also, becoming a citizen benefits traveling. I’m a US citizen, so, you know what? If I decide to pack it up and move to the southern tip of Africa and stay there for 20 years, when I come back, you got to let me back in. When I knock on the door, you have to let me back in. I’m on this team.
If you’re a permanent resident, and you leave for more than six months, they can presume you’ve abandoned your status and not let you back in. For example, you have family in Mexico, and you go and see them once a year or something. Your mom’s getting older. Your grandmother’s getting older. You’re a teacher, say. You have two months during the summer, and you plan to go down there for two months. You come back and plan to hit the books and start teaching.
Well, in that two months somebody goes from being elderly to being ill, and you need to stay there and nurse them. Those last four months go by, and suddenly, your fidelity and your intention to remain a permanent resident of the United States are called into question.
That’s another reason to become a citizen. I don’t have to answer to anybody about how long I leave the United States.