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When You Are a Citizen, You Must Vote

You can only vote, of course, when you are a citizen. And there is no law saying US citizens must vote. But for foreign-born citizens, it is a right you have fought for. You struggle to be in the USA. You struggle to build a life and raise your family. And you struggle to become a citizen. And if you are not yet a citizen, you will continue to work hard until you are. Let me share with you two stories of how our clients have worked hard in order to vote in the United States.

We were hired by our Mr. Z to apply for citizenship. We previously helped him avoid deportation by getting an immigration judge to grant him cancellation of removal. He had been placed in proceedings as a Green Card holder due to 3 prior drug convictions, including a felony drug trafficking conviction. He had no criminal record since the grant of cancellation of removal so we decided to apply for citizenship. He also had another significant issue in that he registered to vote many years ago although he never actually voted. We presented the evidence of his voter registration, the cancellation of his registration years later, and his voting record to show he did not vote. USCIS ultimately granted our client’s naturalization application. In January 2014 he was sworn in as a United States citizen, and quickly registered to vote - legally.

Mr. M entered the United States in 1990 on a visitor visa. He overstayed the time allowed on his nonimmigrant visitor visa. While in the United States he purchased an employment authorization document which turned out to be fraudulent. He did not know it was fraudulent and attempted to renew it. It was at that point that he was arrested. He was issued an Order to Show Cause in 1991, thereby placing him in deportation proceedings. He was granted voluntary departure by the Immigration Judge in 1992 but did not leave within the voluntary departure period. He left on his own accord in 1996, but the voluntary departure order automatically converted into a deportation order because he did not leave within the time permitted. Thus, that departure is considered a deportation for admissibility purposes. He eventually obtained permanent residency via his marriage to a U.S. citizen who filed a immigrant visa petition on his behalf which was approved in 2007. He came to us to assist with filing for naturalization.

In reviewing the case and preparing for the upcoming naturalization interview, we noticed that the name on his birth certificate was different than the name on his passport. Mr. M explained that the names are different for religious and cultural reasons. We prepared client for questions regarding the different names. We reminded Mr. M of his arrest so he was able to explain this to the officer when asked about any arrests. We also prepared Mr. M for questions regarding his presentation of a fraudulent work authorization document to INS. Finally, we prepared Mr. M for questions regarding his overstay after being granted voluntary departure. We were able to explain to the officer that INA section 212(a)(9)(A) does not pose an admissibility issue for Mr. M because at least 10 years passed between his deportation in 1996 and his immigrant visa in 2007. At the end of the interview, the officer thanked Mr. M for being honest and approved the case. Mr. M happily attended the oath ceremony and is now a naturalized citizen of the United States and can register to vote.

I love complex cases. They can be very slow, but they’re challenging, and attending each and every appointment and interview is worth it. If you want to vote in the next presidential election, you should start now. Talk with an immigration attorney to seek the best route (or routes) to obtaining citizenship. Even if it takes 10 years, you will finally be able to vote.

Margaret W. Wong, Esq.

Margaret W. Wong, Esq., is an adjunct professor of law at Case Western Reserve University Law School and has been recognized as a National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) Trailblazer. She enjoys a “Preeminent AV” rating by Martindale Hubbell, she is listed as a Thomson Reuters Super Lawyer, and her law firm is a Best Lawyers Best Law Firm in Immigration, and an AVVO Client’s Choice in Immigration. She is an immigration attorney for President Obama’s family. Margaret W. Wong & Associates LLC is a national, full-service immigration and criminal law firm with offices in Cleveland, Ohio, New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Nashville, Minneapolis, Columbus, and Raleigh.

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Gordon Landefeld