According to the United States Census Bureau, large numbers of foreign-born Georgia residents are taking the necessary steps to become naturalized United States citizens. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on October 9 this appears to be a direct result of Georgia’s new, strict immigration law as the state has seen an increase in over 43,000 naturalized citizens between 2010 and 2011. That is a jump of 13% overall.
This increase in naturalization is logical given the harsh consequences of Georgia’s new immigration law and the flexibility local law enforcement officers now have to enforce its terms. For example, local law enforcement officers have the authority to check the immigration status of virtually every suspected non-citizen or legal resident who cannot provide identification upon request. Such inquiries had been handled exclusively by federal immigration authorities in the past, but under Georgia’s new law local authorities can now pursue matters of immigration on their own.
Moreover, strict penalties have been proposed to any business owner who does not verify their current workers’ and new hires’ legal authorization to work. This requirement is burdensome to companies and has reportedly resulted in a diminished labor pool in vital areas of Georgia’s economy such as farming and agriculture.
The threat of arrest and trouble finding a job simply for not having all or your necessary paperwork in order is only part of the new law. Suspected non-citizens and/or legal residents can also be denied basic public benefits such as health care, education, and food assistance unless they can prove their status upon request.
Given all of these new requirements it comes as no surprise that more and more eligible people are looking to become naturalized citizens. Any foreign citizen or national can become a naturalized US citizen as long as he or she is able to meet the necessary requirements set by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). This process is administered by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
If you are a Georgia resident and think you are eligible to become a naturalized citizen then it would be advisable to seek legal counsel from a local attorney who specializes in immigration law in order to get the most up to date information on how best to proceed.