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Benefits of gaining U.S. citizenship

Tue, Oct 22 1:25 PM by Romona Paden

citizens have the right to vote

Permanent residents of the U.S., or those with a green card, have many of the same rights as U.S. citizens. However, if you get your U.S. citizenship, you will gain a few key privileges and responsibilities. 

Voting
One of the most well-known privileges of being a U.S. citizen is the ability to vote. You will have a voice in the decisions the government makes by choosing lawmakers and leaders. 

Serving on a jury
People who stand trial in the U.S. have a right to a jury of their peers. By gaining U.S. citizenship, you have become one of those peers and can serve on a jury. This important responsibility will allow you insight into how the judicial system works as well as afford you the opportunity to decide the outcome of a trial. 

Travel with a U.S. passport
When you travel abroad carrying a U.S. passport, you can call on U.S. governmental aid if necessary. In emergencies such as international disasters, or in the case that you are a victim of a crime overseas, you can turn to an embassy or consulate for help. As a citizen, you will get the assistance you require. 

Bring family to the U.S.
U.S. citizens get priority when petitioning to bring a family member into the country. If you have children under 18 who are not citizens, they automatically naturalize once you do. 

Jobs
You can apply for government jobs in a wide variety of fields. You can also become an elected official by running for local, state and some federal offices. Not only can you vote for leaders who will make the changes you want to see, but you can be one of those leaders. 

Schooling
U.S. citizens have access to federal grants and loans for school.

Permanent residency
With U.S. citizenship, you will always be allowed to live in the country. No one can take your residency. 

What to do if you lose your passport

Fri, Jun 14 11:11 AM by Romona Paden

Follow these tips if your passport goes missing.

If you lose your passport on vacation, don't panic. There are ways to remedy the horrible situation of losing your identification overseas and enjoy the rest of your trip. While it is scary to be without your most important documents, don't waste time wondering what to do. Here is a list of important steps to ensure that your trip goes smoothly – and what to do if your passport is lost or stolen. 

 Before heading out on an overseas trip, make copies of all of your documents. These duplicates could come in handy if you happen to lose a form of identification. It may also be a good idea to keep copies of your documents at home in case you lose your luggage on vacation. 

When you check your purse or carry-on and realize that your passport is gone, don't get flustered. These things happen. Without hesitation, notify the police. Although you're in a foreign country, they can at least direct you to the right people to contact, and if you saw who stole your documents you can file a police report. Police officers will lead you to the country's U.S. Embassy. When there, find someone who works in the Citizen Services Unit. According to the U.S. Department of State, once your passport is reported missing or stolen, it can no longer be used for travel. The last thing you want is someone using your identification to fly to another area. 

If all else fails, ask someone for help. Go into a local store, ask your hotel concierge for information or get directions to the nearest government agency. Someone will point you in the right direction and hopefully your passport will turn up before it's time to go home. 

Get a quick passport for summer travel

Wed, May 29 12:17 PM by Romona Paden

Getting a passport for the summer is easy with expedited options.

The U.S. Department of State is making it easier to get a passport for quick summer travel. The services are being sped up to allow students and families to go abroad. Passports are delivered within a four to six week time period, which can help travelers get to their destinations in a timely manner. However, the U.S. Department of State still recommends that people apply for passports as early as possible. 

There are more than 8,000 locations where people can get these expedited passport applications. First-time passports, renewals, additional visa pages and data corrections all qualify for expedited service. Applicants must pay an additional $60 fee and allow two to three weeks for delivery.

For some people on tight schedules, hiring a third party to get a passport or visa in as short as 24 hours is becoming a popular option. This can cost hundreds of dollars, but can be an easy way to get overseas for a business trip or a sudden emergency. The businesses that provide these services must register with the U.S. Department of State, and then they can proceed to pick up and drop off passports whenever they need to. Others say that these services are too expensive, and they'd prefer to wait in one of 26 passport agencies across the U.S. that provides the $60 expenditure fee service. 

"It basically comes down to what you think your time is worth," George Hobica​, of Airfarewatchdog.com, told USA Today. "Standing in line at visa offices or passport offices can suck up hours. … For many people, it's just not worth taking a day or half day off from work."

Citizenship In Question For Latinos Delivered By Midwives On U.S. Soil

Thu, Oct 11 12:21 PM by Romona Paden

Without hospital birth records, Latino citizens who were birthed with the assistance of midwives are having trouble proving their U.S. citizenship.The Obama administration is under fire from the national pro-immigrant group Café Con Leche Republicans after allegedly stripping U.S. citizens of their citizenship over birth certificate fraud. Citizen status for hundreds of Latinos is now in jeopardy as the current administration refuses to recognize the citizenship of those who were birthed with the assistance of midwives instead of in the traditional hospital setting, Bob Quasius reported in a recent article for the Tucson Citizen.

The issue was brought to public attention in June 2012 when a group of midwives along the U.S-Mexico border were convicted of selling U.S. birth certificates to foreign-born individuals. As it is very difficult to prove place of birth without hospital records, therefore, legal citizenship is being called into question for most people delivered by midwives in southern Texas, according to CNN News.

“For countless Latinos who were delivered by midwives in the Southwest, trying to obtain a passport has become an exercise in futility,” the American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement. “Although midwifery has been a common practice for more than a century, particularly in rural and other traditionally underserved communities, the U.S. government has imposed unsurpassable hurdles on midwife-delivered Latinos to prove their citizenship and eligibility for U.S. passports – even when their citizenship has already been established in the past.”

Many elderly Latinos are being asked to locate prenatal medical records and records from every school they’ve attended while living in the United States. Even with sufficient documentation, the U.S. Department of State refuses to issue passports to some of these individuals, which has led to a number of lawsuits over the past few years.

This article is brought to you by Immigration Direct, a trusted resource for matters related to the government’s deferred action program. Take the Free Deferred Action Eligibility Quiz online today.

Tips for applying for a U.S. passport

Fri, Jul 27 4:59 PM by Romona Paden

Individuals must have specific documents in order to get a U.S. passport.Acquiring a valid U.S. passport can be a long process, but it doesn't always have to be. According to the Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. Department of State, the process can be fairly simple for those looking to get a U.S. passport in a timely manner. According to the source, in addition to regular application fees, the individual can pay an additional $60 as well as overnight delivery costs to receive their passport within a few days.

Prior to mailing the form, the individual is able to request expedited service, however, they must clearly mark "EXPEDITE" on the outside of the envelope. Since the forms contain extremely sensitive information, it is suggested that applicants use a traceable delivery method. Any form is able to be expedited, whether it is a first-time application, a renewal or amendments to an existing passport, the individual needs to make sure all of the appropriate forms are within the envelope.

Individuals who need assistance in filing their application for a passport may want to look into local events that will help them with the process. Local libraries and community halls are common spots for passport assistance events, so individuals should check out bulletin boards, newspapers and websites in their community for these types of services.

For example, residents in Millburn, New Jersey, seeking a U.S. passport are invited to attend the Millburn Free Public Library on August 27 from 2 to 8 p.m. In order to properly apply or reapply for the passport, individuals must be able to present a current form of identification that is less than five years past the expiration date. However, the county will not be accepting renewal applications from adults.

At the Millburn event, applicants under the age of 18 must be accompanied by at least one parent and must also possess a valid driver's license. Children under the age of 15 must have both of their parents with them, and if one of their parents is unable to be in attendance, the family must have the absent parent's valid proof of U.S. citizenship on their person as well as a valid copy of their passport.

Each of the individuals applying must have their valid birth certificate with them or their naturalization forms with them. If the individual is reapplying for a passport must be able to surrender their former copy.

Prior to mailing the form, the individual is able to request expedited service, however, they must clearly mark "EXPEDITE" on the outside of the envelope. Since the forms contain extremely sensitive information, it is suggested that applicants use a traceable delivery method. Any form is able to be expedited, whether it is a first-time application, a renewal or amendments to an existing passport, the individual just needs to make sure all of the forms are contained within the envelope.

Alabama-based Group Pushes to End Mistreatment of Undocumented Immigrants

Thu, Jun 7 4:54 PM by Romona Paden

An immigration advocate group is urging undocumented immigrants to report any mistreatment they experience under Alabama's new immigration reform.As the immigration laws in Alabama get tighter, one group is continuing to support immigrant rights. The group, Southern Poverty Law Center, announced on June 6 that it will relaunch a support hotline that allows undocumented immigrants to report any injustices they feel they have experienced under the state's immigration law.

According to CNN, the Alabama currently has what many are calling one of the "harshest anti-immigration laws in the United States." The support hotline was introduced to the state in September, just a short time after the Alabama law went into effect. The original law, which was constructed after Arizona's controversial immigration legislature, states that law enforcement officials within Alabama are allowed to check a person's immigration status if they believe the individual is living in the country without U.S. citizenship. However, last month, the law was revised to be much more strict. The state's new provision defines what is considered proper identification –  acceptable items include a U.S. passport or driver's license – and forbids employers from hiring illegal immigrants for work.

Mary Bauer, legal director for the SPLC told The Birmingham News that the hotline was necessary after the law went into effect back in September 2011.

"State lawmakers have callously refused to address the humanitarian crisis created by Alabama's anti-immigrant law," she said. "As we continue our fight against this unconstitutional law, we want to know first-hand the suffering it is inflicting on people across the state."

CNN reports that since implementing the hotline the SPLC has retained files of several abuse cases,including one situation that involved a 13-year-old girl being refused medical treatment for failing to be able to show U.S. citizenship.

The group seems to be helping a fairly large amount of undocumented citizens in the area, and will continue to do so. According to reports, more than 5,800 reports have been filed through the hotline since September.

Immigration Activists Take a Stand in Iowa

Mon, Jun 4 5:27 PM by Romona Paden

A group of residents in Iowa are pushing for fair immigration laws in the state.A community in Iowa is fighting toward immigration equality in a big way. The group of community and church leaders in Orange City, Iowa, hope their voices will create a more welcoming community where the Latinos in the neighborhood can feel at home while the state rages on with immigration reform discussions.

The individuals are part of a campaign called Helping Our Iowa Neighbors, which began in April with the idea of constituting a "suitable environment" for all families. Since the group's formation, the campaign has already impacted more than 700 people in northwestern Iowa who have already signed a petition they introduced.

The petition is sponsored by the Sioux County 100 committee, which states that Iowa's laws regarding immigration are "dysfunctional" and that there needs to be less separation of families. The petition also states that law enforcement officials in the area need to handle immigration situations better. According to Fox News, one of the last issues highlighted within the document says that the state needs to implement "smart immigration law enforcement initiatives consistent with maintaining human dignity and respect that includes fostering positive relationships with all local residents while deterring and punishing criminal activity."

In addition, one of the issues the group is speaking out about is the fact that many people working in the country without U.S. citizenship are hard workers, have no criminal record and are responsible for paying their taxes. The group is asking that those who fit the responsible resident identity be given the ability to have their status regularized. Sioux County 100 also wish to assist in the progress of hiring immigrant workers for agricultural jobs.

Since the Arizona immigration law was signed, there have been many immigrant advocate groups coming forward. Many are upset with the "show me your papers" law, while others are working toward the economy or making sure undocumented immigrants get a fair chance when applying for a U.S. green card or citizenship.

Public Schools Remain Open to Illegal Immigrants in Georgia

Fri, Mar 30 9:21 AM by Romona Paden

Undocumented college students will be able to continue attending public colleges and universities in Georgia. While the resolution may not have come about as many immigration advocates may have hoped, illegal immigrants in the state of Georgia will still receive the same benefits: None will be turned away from the state's public colleges and universities.

During a recent House meeting, the portion of the state's proposed immigration bill that banned undocumented residents from attending any of Georgia's public colleges or universities was removed. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the school clause was taken out simply because it was stalling the rest of the bill's passage through the state's government. 

"It wasn't worth jeopardizing the entire bill," Georgia Senator Barry Loudermilk, the bill's sponsor, said.

The stalling was largely caused by public outcry regarding this portion of the bill. According to AJC, the chancellor of Georgia's university system, Hank Huckaby, was one of the large sources of criticism.

"Graduating more students is a key goal of the [university] system as we work to help Georgia prosper," Huckaby stated during his testimony for SB 458 on February 22. "Even for those who are here through no fault of their own, it makes sense to me that we should educate them to the highest level possible. It helps our state economically, culturally, and educationally."

Senator Loudermilk believes that some parts of the bill that have produced unexpected consequences will also be amended during this process, according to Fox News Latino. Current misaddressed side effects of the bill include the fact that the law bans illegal immigrants from getting married in the state, or sign up for water services. These two factors were largely created due to the bill's definition of acceptable forms of identification, which states that non U.S. passports are no longer able to be used to identify an individual.

Napolitano Accused of Intentional Underestimates of Illegal Border Crossings

Tue, Mar 20 12:56 PM by Romona Paden

Insiders now suspect that illegal immigration data for the United States was intentionally underestimated. New reports have shown that the number of arrests along U.S. borders are down more than 50 percent. However, recent tips from insiders have accused Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and her team of intentionally underestimating the numbers of border crossings of individuals without proper immigration forms.

The accusation came from U.S. Rep. Darrel Issa (R-California), who is the chair of the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight.

In a letter to Nepolitano, Issa said he does not believe the current immigration border crossing statistics, "because [he knows] that there are hundreds of thousands getting past us every year, so there’s no way that number has remained static.”

According to the Eurasia Review, Issa also uses a small piece of sample data from a border patrol station in Arizona as evidence, stating that in one week in April 2011, approximately 82 undocumented immigrants were not arrested or turned back at the border, yet none were reported as "got-aways," either.

According to Michael Cutler, a retired Senior Special Agent with the former Immigration and Naturalization Service who wrote an opinion piece for Fox News Latino, some believe that the alleged measure by Napolitano was done as a ploy to look better for the upcoming presidential election.

"Current administration would like to be able to say that the immigration problem is correcting itself, thereby placating voters on both sides of the issue," wrote Cutler. " By touting reduced arrest statistics, the administration could lay claim to securing our nation's borders and convincing everyone that immigration is no longer a problem."

While Issa's letter demanded more accurate statistics from Napolitano, according to the Seattle Times, 13 of the United States' northern states are urging Napolitano to create firmer harassment and abuse regulations along the northern borders.

The immigration advocates cited many cases of excessive violence used by Border Patrol agents in cases, including the 10 shots that were fired at a mentally ill man in Washington's Whatcom County, according to the Seattle Times. 

Man Without a Country, A La ‘The Terminal,’ but Due to US Error

Tue, Feb 28 1:21 PM by Romona Paden

Abdo Hizam found out that his U.S. citizenship was invalid after applying for citizenship for his wife and children, who live in Yemen.Despite living with U.S. citizenship since 1990, Abdo Hizam learned last year that his status was given to him in error.

The State Department alerted Hizam of the mistake in 2011, telling him it was no error of his own, but a bureacratic problem that had created the blunder. Hizam gave up his Yemeni citizenship shortly after arriving in the United States at age nine, but now U.S. government officials have removed his citizenship, revoked his passport, and left Hizam in an immigration status limbo.

Hizam's family currently lives in Yemen, where he has routinely visited throughout his life. After sending in his family's citizenship applications, the U.S. government discovered an error on Hizam's own citizenship application. Hizam's Yemeni-American father, who currently lives in Yemen, had not satisfied the requirement which stated that he could transmit citizenship to Hizam if he could prove he had lived in the United States for at least 10 years prior to Hizam's birth. Hizam's father, it appeared, had only spent a little less than eight years in the United States.

Hizam does not currently "exist on paper," as he put it to The New York Times. He may undergo deportation procedures. However, due to his uncertain status in Yemen, Hizam is unsure where he will go.

The story is similar to the heartbreaking tale of Mehran Karimi Nasseri, a Iranian refugee who lived in Charles de Gaulle Airport from 1988 until 2006. In his 17 years at the airport, Nasseri had to survive on the food given to him by airport employees, and spent most of his days reading and writing.

"My day is just like inside a library. Silence," said Nasseri to the Christian Science Monitor in 2004. 

New Immigration Priorities Leave Same-Sex Couples in Limbo

Mon, Feb 27 2:33 PM by Romona Paden

Many same-sex binational couples recently discovered that their deportation proceedings will be different than those of other binational couples. While many fearing deportation were happy to hear that the Obama administration was rearranging its deportation procedures to focus on undocumented individuals with criminal histories. However, there was uncertainty as to how the new approach would affect binational same-sex couples with pending green card petitions.

A meeting in January between many high-level LGBTQ advocate groups and Obama administration officials determined that the White House has rejected a hold on green card petition cases involving same-sex binational couples. Government officials stated that they needed to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act, and so these couples did not fall into the same "hold category" as other deportation cases.

Prior to the decision, same-sex couples were told that their claims would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, with each case for a fiance visa or permanent resident card given individual treatment. However, because of DOMA, the federal government is not allowed to grant green cards to foreign-born spouses in same-sex couples.

The decisions from the January meeting are especially disheartening to many immigrant and LGBTQ rights advocates considering that in February 2011, the Obama administration stated it would not defend the section of DOMA that bans same-sex couples from federal rights and responsibilities granted any other marriage.

LGBTQ advocates have argued that these cases could at least be deemed low-priority, providing couples time to be together while other trials, primarily dealing with undocumented residents with criminal histories, are worked out.

Many immigration and gay rights advocates believe that the decision is unlawful, and does not follow consitutents to only grant some same-sex couples the rights apart from DOMA. The Advocate quoted one prominent voice making this argument.

"In many, many meetings over the past six months, with different players and different agencies, [the administration] has been quick to say, without hesitation, that our legal arguments are quite sound," said Rachel Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality. "So it’s frustrating to hear this idea from them that it’s basically no big deal for individuals to fall out of lawful status."

Dedicated Clerk at Peoria Passport Office

Mon, Jan 30 8:55 AM by Romona Paden

 Extended hours at a Peoria passport office will make it easier for students to fill out applications.The topic of immigration is often highly contentious and polarizing, as demonstrated by the recent Republican primary debates and the partisan responses to President Barack Obama's statements about immigration in the State of the Union address. In the midst of this heated national conversation, the Peoria Journal Star recently ran a story reminding readers that on a local level, immigration officials are often devoted public servants, and the offices where immigration forms and passport applications are processed can be places of great excitement and happiness.

In September, Robert Spears took over the position of county clerk in Peoria, Illinois, and he's been hard at work ever since, the Journal Star reported. The office has processed 239 U.S. passport applications since September and 87 since the beginning of 2012. The youngest person to be granted a passport was a six-day-old baby boy whose parents were visiting the United States from England.

Spears told the newspaper that due to complications, the boy's mother was not able to return to the United Kingdom to give birth, making U.S. citizenship her son's first-ever birthday present. And like other U.S. citizens, the newborn needed a passport to fly across the pond.

The baby did not open his eyes for his passport photo, as is required, but Spears assured the Journal Star that the infant was given his passport regardless.

Going beyond the call of duty, Spears is opening his office on Saturday, February 4, to make it easier for college students to apply for passports prior to spring break, the source reported.

"We're trying to make it more convenient for people to get their passports, particularly students and young people, who can't get here by 4 p.m. (on weekdays)," Spears said. He added that his team will take advantage of unused office space on the weekend to process multiple passports simultaneously.

About 12.6 million passports were issued in 2011, with more than 481,000 issued in Illinois, according to the U.S. Department of State.

Schumer Presses for Expansion of NEXUS Program

Fri, Dec 2 2:22 PM by Romona Paden

Senator Charles Schumer wants to expand a program to encourage cross-border business between the United States and Canada.Appearing recently with other American and Canadian officials at the Peace Bridge U.S.-Canada border crossing in Buffalo, New York, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer called for an expansion of the NEXUS program to expedite travel between the United States and its northern neighbor.

Saying that the "maddening traffic" around U.S.-Canada border crossings in New York is discouraging both business travel and tourism between the two countries, Schumer outlined his plan to boost NEXUS enrollment. The NEXUS program provides pre-approved travelers with a NEXUS passport, which is a Radio Frequency Identification card similar to the E-ZPasses many New Yorkers use to pay highway tolls. Because the NEXUS passport can be easily screened at the border, holders can cross back and forth between the United States and Canada without having to undergo lengthy interviews with immigration officials.

The NEXUS program is also economical, as it costs $50 to enroll. This is less than the cost of a U.S. passport, which runs to $135 for a 10-year passport book and card. A NEXUS passport eliminates the need for a U.S. passport to travel to Canada. Still, Schumer said many people have not participated because the pre-screening process is inconvenient.

While people can fill out NEXUS applications online, they must appear for an interview at a designated location. In the United States, the only interview location is at the Whirlpool Bridge in Niagara Falls, and in Canada, the only locations are at border crossings and international airports. Schumer introduced a plan to open enrollment centers at more convenient locations. He also called for more READY Lanes to support NEXUS passage at busy crossings like the Peace Bridge and Whirlpool Bridge, which handle $30 billion in cross-border commerce annually.

"Simply put, this new plan will mean that more pre-approved workers, vacationers and shoppers alike will be zipping right across the border to spend their time in Western New York," Schumer said.

The senator submitted a letter detailing his proposal to U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, President of the Canada Border Services Luc Portelance and other officials.

On November 29, the House of Representatives voted to approve a bill eliminating business visa per-country caps. Calling these caps "oudated constraints" that stifle economic growth, Schumer said he would work to make sure the bill also wins swift passage through the Senate, The Associated Press reported. 

Supreme Court Case Tests U.S. Passport Law

Tue, Nov 8 6:45 PM by Romona Paden

The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing a case involving the passport of a boy with dual Israeli-American citizenship.The U.S. Supreme Court recently began hearing arguments in a case that has implications for U.S. passport procedures and has a bearing on international diplomacy.

At issue is the passport of Menachem Zivotofsky, a 9-year-old with American citizenship who was born in Jerusalem. Because Jerusalem is disputed territory, the longstanding U.S. policy has been to simply name Jerusalem, without a country, as birthplace on the passports of individuals like Menachem.

This procedure was challenged in 2002, when Congress passed a law giving parents the right to have Israel listed as place of birth for their Jerusalem-born children. Citing the possibility of sparking an international incident, the State Department refused to comply with the law and denied the Zivotofskys' request, leading to the current court case.

During arguments on November 7, the Supreme Court justices seemed to indicate they will rule against the Zivotofskys. According to The Associated Press, Chief Justice John Roberts said the family seemed to be asking the court to favor their amateur foreign policy judgment over the president's, and Justice Elena Kagan stated that the Congressional law is questionable.

"It's a passport statute that seems to have nothing to do with immigration functions that passport statutes usually serve," the AP quoted Kagan as saying.

The Zivotofskys' counsel argued that Congress had determined it would not hurt U.S. foreign policy to list Israel as place of birth in cases such as these.

Instructions on the U.S. Department of State website give some idea of the passport complexities that have resulted from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The site warns that U.S. citizens whose parents or grandparents were born in the West Bank or Gaza might be considered Palestinian by Israeli immigration officials, and will be barred from entering or exiting the country without a Palestinian Authority passport, except at a certain point of entry, where they will be granted passage if they have a Jordanian visa and a U.S. passport.

September 17 is Passport Day in the USA

Fri, Sep 9 10:27 AM by Romona Paden

On Saturday, September 17, the U.S. Department of State will hold the third annual Passport Day in the USA event, offering appointment-free service at regional passport facilities around the country.

U.S. citizens who do not have travel plans within two weeks of Passport Day can visit any participating facility without an appointment to apply for a passport or visas or to request a passport card that can be used for travel between the United States, Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean. Standard processing applicants typically receive a passport within four to six weeks and expedited passports usually arrive within two to three weeks. The charge for expedited processing is $60. Other services, such as adding pages to a passport, will also be offered on Passport Day.

Many passport facilities, including post offices, will be open for extended hours on September 17, with workers on hand to answer applicants' questions and provide information about the U.S. passport program. In its Passport Day announcement, the State Department reminds prospective applicants that both adults and minors must apply for passports in person. A list of participating Passport Day locations is available at the travel.state.gov website.

This year's Passport Day in the USA was originally scheduled for April 9, but was postponed due to uncertainty regarding a government shutdown.

About 13.9 million passports were issued in 2010, up from about 13.5 million in 2009, according to State Department figures. 

Feds Offer Deal in Veteran's Passport Violation Case

Thu, Jun 30 1:47 PM by Romona Paden

The federal government offered to drop a passport violation case against an Iraq war veteran facing deportation, according to multiple reports.

Petty Officer Elisha Dawkins was born in the Bahamas and brought to the US as a child. While growing up in Miami, Dawkins reportedly believed he was a US citizen.

However, while on active duty at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Dawkins was indicted on making a false statement on a 2006 passport application. Dawkins had reportedly stated he had never applied for a passport before when he had in fact abandoned an application he completed the year before.

In a somewhat surprising move, the office of assistant US attorney Olivia Choe offered to drop the passport violation conviction if Dawkins agreed to complete a term of probation. Choe told the New York Times that her office took Dawkins' military service into account when they made the offer.

However, Dawkins still has other legal woes. The veteran is reportedly facing deportation based on an order issued in 1992, when he was 8-years-old.

Passport violations – such as lying on an application – are a felony offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison, according to the Department of Justice.
 

Supreme court to hear US passport case involving Jerusalem

Tue, May 3 5:11 PM by Romona Paden

The US Supreme Court recently said that it would hear the appeal of a woman who is upset at the State Department over the listing of her son's birth place on his US passport.

The mother of Menachem Zivotofsky, a boy with US citizenship who was born in Jerusalem, wants her son's US passport to record his place of birth as Jerusalem, Israel, according to Reuters. However, US officials told her that they are only required to list the place of birth as "Jerusalem" as America doesn't recognize any country's sovereignty over the city.

Zivotofsky's parents filed their initial lawsuit in 2003 in federal court, but a judge dismissed it, saying that such a case was beyond the power of the judiciary, according to the news source.

An appeals court agreed with the ruling and now the case goes to the highest court in the land.

President Barack Obama's administration opposes the appeal as it says that the executive branch has sole authority over the US passport issue in the case.

According to the AFP, the US is just one of many countries that have decided not to recognize sovereign claims on Jerusalem. 

GAO recommends withholding passports from tax evaders

Tue, Apr 12 3:03 PM by Romona Paden

Passport Day in the USA 2011 set for April 9

Thu, Mar 24 4:35 PM by Romona Paden

The US Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs recently announced that Saturday, April 9, will be Passport Day in the USA 2011.

That day, passport agencies and certain passport acceptance facilities will be open to help people get a new US passport or to renew an older one. Some municipalities are gearing up for the big day, including Union County, New Jersey, according to the Alternative Press.

On April 9, the Union County Clerk’s office will be open for six hours to accept passport applications and provide information.

“My office in Westfield is joining with the US Department of State to celebrate ‘Passport Day in the USA’ – a national passport acceptance and outreach event,” Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi told the news source. “Are you ready for that summer trip you dreamed about all winter? Now is the time to make sure your passport is up-to-date.”

Rajoppi also said that some countries require one’s passport to be valid a number of months after they have left the country, meaning those with soon-to-expire travel documents may want to renew them to be on the safe side.

First time applicants for US passport

Tue, Mar 22 3:27 PM by Romona Paden

A US passport opens the world up to those with US citizenship, as the document allows travelers to move freely about most of the globe. However, applying for one for the first time can be a bit intimidating so knowing something about the process will likely help alleviate anxiety.

In certain situations, a person may be required to apply for their US passport in person. Those who will have to do this are those who have never previously held a US passport, those who are younger than 16, those whose previous US passport was issued when they were younger than 16, those who have lost their passport or had it stolen and those who previously received their passport more than 15 years ago.

The first step towards getting the travel document is filling out Form DS-11: Application For A U.S. Passport. However, one should not sign the document until instructed to do so by an Acceptance Agent.

After Form DS-11 is filled out, one will have to submit the form in person along with proof of US Citizenship (a previously issued passport, birth certificate), present identification (driver's license, military ID) and submit a photocopy of identification documents.

Finally, one will have to pay the application fee and submit one passport photo. 

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