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Journey to border for migrants can be a difficult decision


Is American citizenship worth it?

The immigration process has seen drastic changes over the years from a lawful and moral standpoint. While people have personal feelings on both sides of the spectrum, the USA has taken a stand to allow people across the border, but at what cost? OurWeekly interviewed Hillary Walsh, founder and president of New Frontier Immigration Law in Arizona, regarding the immigration process, the challenges they face crossing the border, and issues they face once in America. 

Question: What is the process of becoming a legal immigrant in the USA?

Answer: The process of becoming a legal immigrant in the United States depends on a lot of factors. 

1.You can become a legal immigrant in the United States if a family member petitions for you while you're still in your home country, and in some cases, even while you're here in the United States. This is typically called family-based immigration.

2.The legal immigration process can be an employment setting, where an employer petitions for you, and you get a work visa to come to the United States and eventually residency.

3.A lottery is available as well, and they can win their residency that way.

4. They can also obtain residency by being put into removal proceedings and having removal order “canceled.”

5.Lastly, they may also be able to get residency through options like winning asylum in the United States or experiencing human trafficking or severe domestic violence in the United States.

Q: What's the financial burden of obtaining citizenship?

A: The most civic significant financial burden on obtaining citizenship at this time is the filing fee. The filing fee is several hundred dollars. That alone can sometimes be a barrier to people wanting to apply for citizenship because they have to choose between buying groceries for their family or paying the filing fee to get citizenship.

Q: What are the dangers of crossing the border?

A: There are significant dangers in crossing the border. There are people on the Mexican side of the border who know that people are trying to cross into the United States and can take advantage of those people. But perhaps the most dangerous component of crossing the border is the various counties people have to cross through. 

To get to the United States, places like Nicaragua, Guatemala, and southern Mexico can be extremely dangerous for women and children trying to make their journey across the whole country of Mexico to make it to the U.S. border. I have many clients who have been raped, tortured and held for ransom, among other horrifying things like seeing other travelers murdered along the way. 

At the border itself, immigrants face a lot of dangers because human smugglers more commonly known in the immigration field as “coyotes,” will often sexually or physically abuse people whom they're smuggling into the United States or they will leave them behind in the desert with no food or water to die. Some of my clients have been sold to human traffickers here in the United States, where they are held in stash houses and held for ransom until their families wire more money to obtain the immigrant’s release. Overall, it's an extremely dangerous process.

Q: What is the new adjustment to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)?

A: There aren't any new adjustment processes with USCIS. However, there is a new adjustment of status fee with USCIS, which is significantly higher than it used to be prior to the April 2024 fee increase.

Q: How do these new changes affect immigrants in all aspects of life?

A: The new fee changes affect the lives of immigrants in ways that may not necessarily be negative for people filing for a regular adjustment of status. It's several hundred more dollars for just the filing fee alone; $1,000+ is a significant cost for most families. By contrast, however, USCIS eliminated the filing fee for human trafficking survivors and domestic violence victims. Previously, those filing fees were about $1000 per case, which for a human trafficking victim could easily be cost-prohibitive.

Q: Where and how should immigrants look for help? 

A: Immigrants should look for help from reputable law firms and other nonprofit organizations that can help them with the needs unique to their specific immigrant community. My law firm, for example, helps undocumented Hispanic immigrants get their papers. We can and sometimes do serve other demographics, but our firm is truly geared toward serving Spanish speakers from Latin America.