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A hard path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants

On Behalf of | May 20, 2011 | Citizenship

Few options are available to people who want to become legal residents who arrive without documentation from Mexico to California for work and, or business related purposes. Many immigrants come to California seeking cheap labor jobs. They often come here alone hoping to become legal residents, and they often arrive without documentation, thereby needing to acquire citizenship.

For many undocumented immigrants, the only way to gain citizenship is to have a close relative who is a U.S. citizen or be married to a U.S. citizen. Even with this type of family connection, many undocumented residents face a difficult immigration process.

Immigrating to California from Mexico can be scary and sometimes very dangerous. Not only did many undocumented immigrants face harrowing experiences to get to the U.S. originally, the process to become a legal resident can also be risky. Undocumented immigrants from Mexico must go to Ciudad Juarez as part of their petition of legal residency.

The trip to Juarez can be frightening for many reasons. First, Juarez is well-known for the drug violence that has taken over the city in recent years. Returning there means facing that violence.

Additionally, undocumented immigrants who have been in the United States for more than a year face an automatic 10 year “penalty” if they leave. They are required to go back to Mexico, but that trip could result in being denied entry to the U.S. for another 10 years.

Thankfully, there is a way to avoid the 10 year penalty waiting period. The U.S. citizen family member can apply for a hardship waiver. For example, an undocumented immigrant whose spouse is a U.S. citizen may be raising small children. Perhaps the couple owns a business together. Or maybe the undocumented immigrant is caring for an ailing relative in the United States. All of these situations could lead to a waiver of the 10 year penalty.

Source:, Border Crossings, Jessi Hamel, 11 May, 2011