U.S. citizenship a tough task for most

Luis Barrios, of Derby, thanks the public for their support against his deportation. Barrios was granted a 30-day stay Wednesday (WTNH / Tom Parent)

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Family, friends and Luis Barrios himself are breathing a sigh of relief after word came of a 30 day stay on his deportation order. But as we’ve covered this story all week, the recurring question coming into the newsroom is ‘how come Barrios doesn’t seek U.S. citizenship?’ Speaking with several immigration law experts, they said it is much easier said than done.

Members of the Connecticut Congressional Delegation went to bat for Luis Barrios in Washington. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), personally called Barrios Wednesday and broke the news.

“There is no reason for this case to come down to the wire,” Sen. Blumenthal said.

Blumenthal plans to meet with Barrios on Friday to go over next steps for his case. They plan to argue with immigration officials at ICE for political asylum, since Barrios said he fled murderous violence and political corruption in his native Guatemala when he came here illegally in 1992. He applied for asylum years ago, but it was denied.

“We’re going to chart the steps that are necessary for more time so he can present all of these compelling facts that argue for asylum,” Blumenthal said. “Because he faces death if he’s returned to Guatemala.”

Asylum may be his only chance at earning immediate legal status. Immigration experts said it is extremely difficult to even begin the process of becoming a legal permanent resident.

“If you don’t have someone who’s going to sponsor you as an employer or a family member, chances are you’re not even going to be able to get in line to come to the U.S.,” said Sheila Hayre, an immigration attorney.

And that’s just the first step to becoming a United States citizen. An immediate family member would need to sponsor Barrios. But none of his American children are old enough, since the threshold is 21. The fact that he’s undocumented only makes it harder for resident status.

“You’re here now illegally, and you don’t have an immediate relative here to sponsor you, your options are very limited,” said Hayre.

Sen. Blumenthal said this case glaringly points out the need for comprehensive immigration reform in Washington, D.C. But that topic isn’t even on the legislative radar with leaders in the nation’s capitol.

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