Myth #2: A green card = Citizenship – US Passport – Voting Right

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Another myth that we often encounter is the belief that having a green card is almost the equivalent of US citizenship.  People think that with the exception of having a US passport and the right to vote, being a permanent resident confers the same rights as a US citizen.  Unfortunately, that is not the case.

A green card can be taken away; with very limited exception, citizenship cannot.  A green card holder may be considered to have abandoned his US residence and have his green card taken away.  A green card holder can have his green card taken away if he commits a crime.  With the Trump Administration, this is becoming more and more of a real possibility. I was reminded of this the other day reading the story of Phillip Clay.

Mr. Clay was adopted from Korea in 1983 when he was 8 years old. Because US law at that time did not allow for the automatic conferral of citizenship for adopted children, he was a permanent resident.  Strange as it may sound, he and many others like him did not realize that they were not US citizens, that the adoption and citizenship processes were separate.  Mr. Clay became caught up in drugs and shoplifting. He was jailed and placed in mental health centers many times. He had a conviction for a violent crime – kicking a police officer.

In 2012, he was deported to Korea, a country he had not known since a small child and a language he did not speak.  After 5 years in Korea, he committed suicide.  More details about this tragedy can be found here –

Of course, there may be reasons why green card holders decide not to acquire US citizenship.  But for those who delay the decision or don’t even know they are not citizens, the consequences can be tragic, particularly in the enforcement environment we now live in.