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US Citizenship: Expectations in 2010

Many people have big expectations for US immigration and citizenship laws in 2010. While no one knows for certain what specific changes will be made to citizenship laws in 2010, economic woes in late 2009, a humanitarian disaster in Haiti, and domestic concerns over illegal immigration may all have an impact on citizenship in the US in 2010.

The aftermath of the Haiti earthquake will likely continue to have an impact on US citizenship in 2010. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has allowed

hundreds of orphans from the ravaged nation to enter the US under humanitarian parole. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA § 212(d)(5)(A)), the Department of Homeland Security can grant this status in urgent cases. The State Department (DOS) and DHS will provide the orphans with visas, travel documents, and other documentation. It is likely that adopting families will eventually wish to make their new children US citizens, and this will likely increase citizenship numbers in 2010. In January 2010, 900 Haiti orphans were already eligible for expedited travel to the US and the US may eventually authorize visas and citizenship for many more orphans from the same country through 2010. It is expected that Haitian relatives of US legal permanent residents may also have visas and travel expedited. Before the earthquake, there were more than 300 000 orphans in Haiti and the earthquake created many more. Currently, there appears to be no limit to the number of citizenships and visas which the US might grant to those Haitians in need, and this could increase the number of people receiving US citizenship considerably.

As well, immigration reform begun in 2009 and expected to come into law in 2010 may affect US citizenship applications. Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR), also known as the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity (CIR ASAP) Act of 2009 (HR 4321), and The Dream Act, also known as the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act of 2009 (HR1751) are two pieces of legislation which might pass into law in 2010. These laws would allow immigrants currently in the US without legal status to become legal US immigrants, with all the rights and privileges of that status. These controversial bills are essentially a type of amnesty that could provide legal status for the millions of immigrants currently in the country illegally. Although no one knows exactly how this will impact citizenship, some immigrant experts have pointed out that once immigrants enjoy legal status, some will apply for US citizenship. The new bills will create a new pool of potential naturalization applicants, although it is not known how many of these immigrants would take advantage of the right to apply for naturalization.

Economic woes and the difficulty of employers in finding qualified workers may also affect citizenship. In early 2010, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it would allow immigrants in the US military to apply for US citizenship. While traditionally, immigrants in the US military had to wait for three years before applying for citizenship under new rules that waiting time would be reduced to one year for immigrants serving in peacetime and the waiting time would be reduced entirely for immigrants serving active duty. The military hopes to increase recruitment with this rule.

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