My parents immigrated to America from India, and as a child, I would often go on trips to visit my ancestral homeland. Coming back to America, I noticed that I would have to stand in a different line – for US citizens – when entering the country. It was scary being separated from them, and when I asked them why this had to be, they said it was because they weren’t US Citizens.
This led me to start pushing them to naturalize. With my encouragement, my parents received their citizenship in the year 2000. At first, I thought that my parents becoming citizens would only mean that we would get to stand in the same line after visiting India. But I soon found out there were so many more benefits. By getting citizenship, my parents are able to fully participate in civic life. This included being able to vote in local and national election and they can even run for office! Thus, they modeled the responsible behaviors that I will grew up to admire – civic engagement and community involvement.
This experience led me to better understand children’s role in encouraging citizenship among their parents. Perhaps the biggest reason that children should want their parents to become citizens has to do with family. US citizens are able to sponsor family members to come to the US from their home countries. This means that children would be able to live closer to their grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and other family members.
It’s well-known that strong family bonds are essential to healthy childhoods, but often children of immigrants are forced to live far away from their extended families due to restrictive immigration and visa policies. Parents getting citizenship can be the first step in a family reunification that would greatly benefit them as they grow older.
Parents’ citizenship has myriad other benefits, many of which may not be readily apparent. Studies show that the children of citizen parents are much more likely have better economic outcomes, due to access to increased employment opportunities.
With citizenship, parents and children also get the crucial protection from being separated from one another due to deportation. Permanent residency is not a protection from deportation – only citizenship can provide that. Kids should want their parents to get citizenship so they may have the peace of mind to know that their parents will be there when they come home from school . These are basic human and civil rights that all kids and parents deserve.
Parent citizenship also has a profound impact on children’s health. Through the CHIP program, US citizens are able to access more health care benefits for their children in all 50 states. Numerous studies have been conducted on the health impacts of citizenship on children, and they overwhelmingly show that children of citizens are healthier, get checkups more regularly and are far more likely to have health coverage.
When I was a child trying to get my parents to become citizens, was because I wanted to be with them when we travel. I had no idea about the other benefits they got from being a US Citizen. Now, that I know, I’m so glad that I gave them the push they needed. If you are a Lawful Permanent Resident [LPR] and a parent, grandparent or guardian who has always thought about getting citizenship, there is no better time than now. This step will have a positive impact on you and your children for a lifetime.
Detroit New Americans Regional Community Coordinator