Recent Study: Here’s How Americans Feel About Immigrants in the US

filling out a survey form
A man is filling out a survey form

With the current polarizing political climate, it’s easy to assume Americans on the right and left agree on nothing. But according to a Pew Research study, members of the public on both sides of the spectrum agree on one of the most divisive topics: immigration.

Where Do Americans Agree?

The study, conducted by the Pew Research Foundation from July 22 to Aug. 4, surveyed 4,175 U.S. adults on a variety of immigration issues. The study found Americans tend to agree, regardless of political party, that the current state of immigration is subpar, and there needs to be a way to improve it without jeopardizing the potential for legal immigration. 

Nearly two-thirds of Americans (65%) say the federal government is doing very bad (38%) or somewhat bad (27%) at handling the number of people seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexican border. The study shows that just 33% say the government is doing a good job.

The study also found the public supports stemming the flow of people to the border. According to Pew Research, 74% say it is somewhat important to reduce the number of people coming to the U.S. to seek asylum. Also, 72% of Americans think immigrants should be allowed to stay in the U.S. legally if certain conditions are met. This is consistent with the U.S.’s popular support for legal immigration.

The study found 86% of Americans think it is either very important (52%) or somewhat important (34 %) to increase the number of judges handling asylum cases, which could be read as a public response to the blocked up immigration courts.

Where Do Americans Disagree?

But, of course, Americans don’t agree on everything. The study also found plenty of areas where peoples’ opinions were largely determined by party.

Disagreements were often made over how the government should handle the increase in asylum seekers. Whereas 71% of Democrats say it is very important for asylum seekers to be given safe and sanitary conditions, only 32% of Republicans agree. Most Republicans (77%) think it’s important to make it harder for asylum seekers to be granted legal status, while just a third of Democrats say the same.

Overall, significantly more Republicans than Democrats believe it is very important to reduce the number of people coming to seek asylum, with 65% of Republicans saying it is very important and only 24% of Democrats agreeing.

Are Trumps New Immigration Rules Un-American?

Two Feet With Yellow Line
Two feet standing on each side of a yellow line

On Wednesday, Aug. 14, the Department of Homeland Security published the final rule “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds.” The rule states that as of Oct. 15, DHS may consider an immigrant’s reliance or likelihood to become reliant on public benefits, such as SNAP or Section 8 Housing, to determine if the person should gain legal status. Some people across the U.S. claim this restriction is un-American, so much so that 13 states are suing the federal government for the change.

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The End of Automatic Citizenship for Children of Military Members and Government Employees

a soldier with daughter

On August 28, 2019, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services released a policy alert that announced children born or adopted to U.S. military members and government employees stationed overseas will soon no longer be granted automatic citizenship. The USCIS’s “Defining ‘Residence’ in Statutory Provisions Related to Citizenship” said this policy will go into effect October 29, 2019. According to the USCIS, the policy change is designed to end what the Trump Administration sees as the agency’s inconsistent use of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). In practice this policy would force U.S. service members to apply their children for citizenship if those children were born or adopted overseas, whereas in the past the INA would have granted them automatic citizenship.

What is the Immigration and Nationality Act?

The Immigration and Nationality Act was passed under President Lyndon Johnson in 1965. It was the first major piece of legislation to update immigration law since the 1920s. The U.S. government has used the law to consider children born or adopted overseas to U.S. service members “residents” of the U.S., allowing them to both live in a foreign country and reside in the U.S. A new reading of the law under the Trump Administration claims that that reasoning is inconsistent with some of the INA’s other provisions, which is at the heart of this change in policy.

Who This Policy Change Will and Won’t Affect

This would be yet another policy change from the Trump Administration that complicates the immigration process, forcing those affected to go through difficult bureaucratic hurdles to ensure their children’s citizenship.

“For them [children born or adopted overseas to U.S. service members] to obtain a Certificate of Citizenship, their U.S. citizen parent must apply for citizenship on their behalf,” USCIS spokesperson Meredith Parker said. This process must be finished before the child reaches the age of 18.

This change in policy will affect families of U.S. service members who birth or adopt children after October 29, 2019, in the countries of which they are stationed. However, children born or adopted before that date will continue to have automatic citizenship, so long as they have already been given a Certificate of Citizenship. It is important to stress this policy does not eliminate the possibility of U.S. citizenship for children born into these circumstances, it only makes it so their parents must apply for it. This creates new bureaucratic hurdles for the families affected.

According to a Department of Defense official, this policy will affect approximately 100 families every year. But for those who experience this issue, it could seem like another way the Trump Administration is leveraging family ties to force immigration change.

Why This Policy Change Was Implemented

According to the USCIS, the change will be enacted because the previous policy of automatic citizenship conflicted with other policies outlined in the Immigration and Nationality Act. These conflicts were:

  • Language in the INA already says that U.S. service parents living outside the U.S. may apply for citizenship for their child, which suggests the children are not automatically given it
  • Claiming that children living outside the U.S. could “reside” in the U.S. conflicts with the INA’s definition of “residence,” which is a person’s “principal, actual dwelling place in fact”
  • The current administration believes it is “significant” that the INA says spouses of U.S. service members living outside the U.S. in the course of their service are considered to be residing in the U.S., without explicitly giving the same consideration to their children

Put together, the USCIS said the previous policy was unclear and made it difficult for their officers to consistently assign Certificates of Citizenship to children. They see this change as a correction that more closely follows the law.

How Parents Affected Can Apply Their Children for Citizenship

Parents affected will now be forced to apply for their children’s citizenship with an N-600K form through the USCIS before the child turns 18. If the child’s parents have died, the form must be filed within five years of their deaths by a grandparent or legal guardian. According to the USCIS’s website, the filing fee for this form is $1,170. The N-600K can be filed to the USCIS online or in the mail. Some materials that must be given with the application include:

  • The child’s birth certificate or record
  • The parent’s birth certificate or record 
  • The parent’s marriage certificate 
  • Documents showing the parent’s divorce (if applicable)
  • Proof of qualifying parent’s U.S. citizenship

If some of these materials are unavailable, parents filing can use “secondary evidence,” such as the child’s school records, baptismal certificate, and census records, along with a written explanation for why the requested evidence could not be collected. 

Do You Qualify for an Immigration Waiver?

visa page, immigration lawyer

Foreign citizens seeking entry or permanent residency in the U.S. who have been declared inadmissible by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services may obtain immigration waivers if they meet the necessary eligibility requirements. The Immigration and Nationality Act sets forth a number of grounds that preclude people from entering or staying in the U.S. The grounds of inadmissibility may fall under a number of general categories, including criminal activity, fraud and misrepresentation, and unlawful presence. However, qualifying applicants may be granted waivers providing forgiveness for their inadmissibility factors and allowing them to continue their pursuit of obtaining U.S. visas or lawful permanent residency.

Waiver of Immigration Misrepresentation

Those deemed inadmissible for entry to the U.S. based on having secured immigration benefits fraudulently or by misrepresenting themselves may pursue waivers of immigration misrepresentation. If found inadmissible based on misrepresentation or fraud, foreign citizens may qualify for an immigration waiver if they have a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent fiancé, spouse, child, or parent. They must prove that their citizens or residents will experience extreme hardships should they be denied lawful immigration status, and there must be a waiver available for the specific transgression that caused their inadmissibility.

Provisional Waiver of Unlawful Presence

Applicants seeking provisional waivers of unlawful presence must meet all the specified conditions. Foreign citizens who have overstayed previous periods of admission can be declared inadmissible on the basis of unlawful presence. According to USCIS, to qualify for an unlawful presence waiver, applicants must be:

  • At least 17-years-old
  • Physically present in the U.S. to file the application and provide biometrics
  • Under the impression, their inadmissibility is based on an overstay of over 180 days but less than one year or one year or more during one stay
  • Able to demonstrate the hardship that a refusal of their application would cause their U.S. citizens or permanent residents

Additionally, applicants for unlawful presence waivers must have immigrant visa cases pending based on specific circumstances.

Waivers of Inadmissibility Based on Criminal Grounds

Applicants of criminal offenses other than those of moral turpitude may qualify for waivers on the grounds of criminal inadmissibility. There must, however, be a waiver available for their specific offense. Additionally, applicants must have an immediate family member who will experience hardships due to their denied entrance or at least 15 years must have passed between when they committed the crime for which they are inadmissible and when they applied for immigration status.

If You’re a Foreign National Facing Criminal Charges, Read This

wearing handcuffs

Foreign nationals in Illinois may face deportation and removal proceedings if they are convicted of a crime even if they receive a deferred judgment through a plea bargain with the prosecutor. Since a deferred judgment requires defendants to plead guilty and then to comply with the terms of their deferred judgment in exchange for having their guilty pleas withdrawn and the charges dismissed at the end of the time period, the immigration court may still consider it to be a conviction for immigration purposes. Convictions for aggravated felonies will result in an automatic deportation and removal proceeding, and certain misdemeanors and non-violent felonies will also result in deportation and removal proceedings. People should talk to their criminal defense attorneys and their Chicago immigration lawyers before they agree to enter into a plea agreement with the prosecutors who are handling their criminal cases.

What Is a Conviction for Immigration Purposes?

Under the immigration laws, certain criminal convictions will cause deportation and removal proceedings to be initiated. Some offenses such as aggravated felonies will automatically lead to deportation and removal after the person is convicted and has served his or her sentence. Other crimes that are classified as crimes of moral turpitude can also lead to deportation and removal proceedings as can convictions that carry jail sentences of one year or more. Misdemeanor convictions for things such as domestic violence can also prompt deportation and removal. 

If a defendant enters a plea agreement to admit his or her guilt in exchange for a deferred judgment, the admission of guilt will still count as a conviction for immigration purposes even though the guilty plea will ultimately be withdrawn and the charges will be dismissed upon the successful completion of the terms of the deferred judgment. This makes it important for people to talk to their criminal defense attorneys as well as their immigration lawyers so they understand the potential immigration consequences that they might face if they enter a guilty plea or accept a plea bargain for the criminal charges that they are facing. 

Immigration Consequences of Convictions

If people are convicted of crimes for immigration purposes, they may face deportation and removal even if they are lawful permanent residents who have lived in the U.S. for years. If they are here on a visa, they can also lose their visa and be deported back to their home countries and be barred from reentry.