LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - There's a rush by green-card holders to shore up their American citizenship. It picked up once President Donald Trump took office.
The rush is apparent in Arkansas and the tension is high in the immigrant communities in the Natural State.
“I came here about seven months ago,” said Jose Aguilar, deputy counsel for the Mexican Consulate in Little Rock. “In the last four months, it has been like the Super Bowl. A lot of attention.”
“It has been very hectic and very busy,” said Maria Meneses, a central organizer for the Arkansas United Community Coalition. She is on the front lines helping fellow Latinos – both documented and undocumented – apply for status, including American citizenship.
“We have had about 20 applications or 20 people coming in consult per week to want to becoming citizens,” said Carolina Rivera, a navigator for the AUCC.
Numbers across the country indicate applications to become Americans are up, and the two offices that handle applications in Arkansas (Fort Smith and Memphis) are in line with that.
The average number of naturalizations shot up by about 450 last year, as Donald Trump campaigned across the country.
Anxiety is up in the entire community.
“People who are not in a documented status are eager to know what to do, how to behave, what to expect,” Aguilar said, whose consulate doesn’t handle citizenship issues.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services bureau handles that, but the consulate is trying hard to alleviate concerns.
“The concerns relate, in the case of residents the way the authorities are implementing enforcement,” he said.
And for the community navigators, the concerns are high stakes.
“The fear is really real about the family separation,” said Meneses. “What the future holds if the whole family if they have to move back or if the children are here and they go through the system.”
The positive side of the rush to naturalize, is the clarity it can bring to a family. The drawback, as applications have shot up, the numbers of people waiting for the process to play out has shot up as well.
A United States Citizenship Immigration Services spokesperson said that process generally takes about six months.