For many immigrants in Florida, obtaining a "green card" is an important step on the path to U.S. citizenship. But, what exactly is a green card, and what are its benefits?
Before entering the United States, a non-U.S. traveler must have a visa. Whether the traveler is seeking to immigrate to the U.S. or simply intends to visit the country on a tourist visa, they must go through the visa application process.
Over the past two years, a large number of people from Central America have come to Florida and other parts of the United States. Many are families fleeing the gang violence that is tearing that region apart.
Most Floridians know that throughout the United States' long involvement in Afghanistan, local interpreters have provided a crucial service for US military personnel. Their work has been done at great personal risk: interpreters captured by the Taliban are known to face certain death.
Florida is home to numerous immigrants from Central American and Caribbean nations. According to one survey about one in five residents of the state was born in another country. Latinos are a major part of the immigrant community, and make up more than 23 percent of the state's population.
Throughout the history of the United States, people fleeing oppression and persecution in other lands have come here to start a new life in safety. Many apply for asylum under U.S. immigration law. If their application is approved, they can remain in the U.S.
For many immigrants in the Miami area, permanent residency and citizenship are dreams they have pursued for many years. Others want to come to the U.S. to join family members who are already here. Still others simply want to work or study in the U.S. for a few years before returning to their homelands. Whatever people's goals in coming to the U.S., it is essential to understand their rights and obligations under U.S. immigration law.
Many immigrants in Florida were closely watching as two bills were introduced in the State Legislature recently. The two bills would have significantly increased the penalties for undocumented immigrants, prohibited Florida cities from declaring themselves sanctuaries for immigrants and would have required local law enforcement authorities to work with federal agencies in enforcing U.S. immigration law.
In the current U.S. presidential election campaign, some candidates have gone out of their way to vilify and demonize undocumented immigrants. At the same time, federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, sometimes working alongside state and local law enforcement, have been aggressively pursuing undocumented workers. For those hard-working immigrants who have come to the U.S. to escape crime and unrest in their homelands, deportation and separation from their families is possibility they live with on a daily basis.
It is all but inevitable that in any political debate, the topic of immigration will be brought up. It is a contentious one, to be sure, but too many people make the mistake of oversimplifying the extremely complicated laws and proposed laws related to immigration. This can lead to considerable confusion, wrongful assumptions and misguided decision-making.