PINE BELT, Miss. (WDAM) - Becoming a United States citizen is not as easy as many people may think.
“That’s a big question, how does someone become a U.S. citizen? It depends on our immigration laws here, which can be really complicated,” said Attorney Ben Thornton.
According to Thornton, there are several different categories that people have to apply for citizenship through, the most popular ones being relationship status, employment petitions and, for children, anti-human trafficking laws.
"Before you get to anything near whether or not you can actually apply to become a citizen, you need to be a permanent resident first. That’s the big step,” said Thornton.
Once a permanent residency has been established, immigrants can then officially begin the application process, which can be long and drawn out.
“We get out spot in the line, as you will. We’re still working on the case, but a lot of that is waiting for the government to process the applications and see if they look right," Thornton said. “There’s nothing quick about any of these processes really.”
For some, they are unable to even try to apply for a citizenship because there is no category they belong to.
“Those folks generally find jobs as best they can,” Thornton said. “Under the radar and in the shadows. We see them in church all the time, we see them at the store. They’re regular folks, but they are here in a country they were not born in and there is literally nothing that they can apply for because there’s no category that fits them.”
Thornton said there are many misconceptions about becoming a citizen. Some of the most common misconceptions are that an immigrant can marry a U.S. citizen and automatically become a residence and/or citizen and if you have a child in the US you are not subject to deportation.
“You may have the opportunity to apply for some type of legal status if you marry a U.S. citizen,” Thornton said. “If you have a child here, you may opportunity later to get some type of legal status, but there’s nothing instant about it.”
In response to Wednesday’s raids, Thornton said people have been calling his office asking to help out and give what they can to the families impacted.