No, you are not an American citizen

I have received so many emails from DREAMers and other undocumented aliens asking if they have been granted US citizenship and if they should apply for American passports (some of them even tried to fill form DS-11 but realized that they did not have the documents to complete it and were wondering how to get the paperwork).  The confusion about ALL immigrants who are in the country illegally are American citizens came out of a comment by Vice President Joe Biden that “You know, 11 million people that are living in the shadows. I believe they’re already Americans citizens.” The vice president is so wrong but he was talking like a politician.  United States is a country with laws that determine who is a citizen and unless Biden becomes a dictator and can do what he want by ignoring Congress and Supreme Court, his comments are just nonsense and clearly made to get the Latino vote.  Neither the US president or the VP has any powers at all to declare anyone -- legal or illegal -- a citizen.

So why are DREAMers and all other legal and illegal aliens not US citizens?

  1. DREAMers, even with DACA approval, are not legally present in the United States.  All they get with DACA approval is a deferral of deportation by two years and a permit to work.  They are not allowed to become green card holders or citizens.
  2. American citizenship is acquired either by birth or through naturalization (a very complicated process -- and definitely not available to undocumented immigrants without going through the process of legalization and then being a permanent resident for at least 3-5 years).
  3. You can believe whatever you want in your heart (my 4-year old nephew believes he is a Martian) but merely believing that you are an American or you have lived most of your life here or have no other country that you know of or that you only speak English or have an American accent or you have gone to school here or your parents forced you to move here or this is your HOME, none of this matters and does not make you a citizen.  Becoming a citizen is a long and complicated process and unless Congress approves a law providing a path for those illegally here to eventually file for naturalization, you are still a citizen of a country where you were born.
Warning:  It is a serious crime to make a false claim to be a US citizen.  NEVER check the US citizen box on Form I-9 or any other form to claim any benefits reserved exclusively for citizens.  DO NOT register to vote and never tell anyone that you are an American, even if you believe so.

Preparation for DACA renewal

If you were one of those prompt DREAMers who filed for DACA as soon as the program was launched in fall of 2012, it is time for renewing not just the deferral on deportations but also the work permit (in case you planned on working the last time or plan to work going forward).  As is always the case with immigration petitions, renewals are simpler and faster, especially if you have stayed away from crimes.  Since the actual renewal process has not started yet (expected to start around Memorial Day, 2014), here are some important details that you need to know so that when you are four months away from the expiration of your EAD or USCIS Form I-766, you can apply to renew DACA and employment authorization card.

  1. You will need to file the same forms as last time: USCIS Form I-765, I-821D, and I765WS.  They will be updated in May 2014 and will include a renewal check box and additional questions.
  2. You will have to pay the fee again, so start saving.
  3. Unless you have committed a crime (or deportation proceedings are underway -- yes, even DACA approved DREAMers can be deported for deportable offenses), there is no need to submit any additional supporting evidence (unless there is a RFE and you are asked to submit evidence).  However, if you married in the meantime and legally changed your name, this will be your chance to update that information by providing evidence of your marriage and legal name change.
  4. Remember that your valid Social Security number is yours to keep for the rest of your life (the number will never change whether you become a citizen some day or return to your native country forever).  It is to be noted, though, that just having a genuine SSN does not mean that you can work in the United States.  Unless you become a permanent resident or citizen, you can use that SS# to work only with DHS authorization, meaning a work permitWorking without authorization is against US laws and while there are fewer consequences for unauthorized work for undocumented aliens, those of you who have chosen to provide all your biographic information along with fingerprints to the United States authorities need to be more careful working illegally.  You are more likely to be caught now and the punishment is going to be a lot more severe.
  5. While many DREAMers experienced massive delays in adjudication of their initial DACA approvals, the USCIS is promising to renew your papers in less than 120 days.  If there is a delay at their end, they will send you a temporary authorization so that you can continue to work legally and be protected from deportation.