A large number of Latinos do not know that they are already U.S. citizens and, after living for years as undocumented, discover this fact when they begin the process of regularizing their immigration situation.
"In some cases, the parents returned with their children to their countries of origin and never told them they were born here. In other cases, they know they were born here, but the parents obtained a false birth certificate in Mexico, and so now they have lots of problems proving they were really born in the United States," Lisa Pray, an attorney in Fort Morgan, Colorado, told Efe.
"Sometimes, the immigrant parents don't know that when they became citizens their minor children automatically also become U.S. citizens. Not knowing that, the parents are beginning to apply for green cards for their children, as if the children were foreigners," she added.
"Everything connected with the immigration laws is very complicated. The experts should sit down with people and explain each concept step by step and use simple terms so that the people understand them," Pray said.
And that lack of information, Pray said, affects the lives of entire families for many years.
For example, she said, recently a young man came to her office who wanted to regularize his immigration situation and that of his younger brother.
A brief conversation allowed Pray to learn that the parents of the two boys had been U.S. citizens for 15 years and, as a result, both sons had been citizens from that moment onward.
"For more than 10 years they had been renewing their residence cards without anyone in the (U.S.) Citizenship and Immigration Services ever giving them the slightest indication that they were already citizens. When I told him the news about their citizenship, the joy in his face was indescribable," Pray said.
The lawyer says that it's frustrating to know that these people, despite being citizens, are being denied their rights, like the one to vote or access to certain benefits, "because nobody in the government took the trouble or the time to inform them."