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Don’t Delay Filing for Naturalization

Andrew Golota, a well-known Chicago boxer, legal permanent resident and Polish immigrant, is now in removal proceedings and facing deportation. Golota is a perfect example of why I recommend to all my clients that they file for naturalization as soon as they are eligible, assuming they have a clean record and do not have other issues that trigger removability. Only a naturalized citizen enjoys the full protection of U.S. law and can live without worrying about facing deportation proceedings.

Two years ago, Golota filed his paperwork with USCIS to become a naturalized U.S. Citizen. This triggered a background check that revealed two misdemeanors from his past. Upon discovering these misdemeanors, USCIS initiated removal proceedings and now Golota is fighting to stay in America, where he has lived for more than two decades.

Legal permanent residents are eligible to apply for naturalization after living in the U.S. for 5 years, or 3 years if they are married to a U.S. Citizen spouse. After filing, USCIS examines your history and criminal background to determine if you are eligible to become a naturalized U.S. citizen. Any blemishes on your record can come back to haunt you.

I’ve written before about how accidentally registering to vote can threaten your application for citizenship. In Golota’s case, he had two misdomeanors on his record: One for flashing an honorary police badge when we was pulled over after running a stop sign in 2003 and another from 2006 when police found guns in his house which he was not allowed to have. Golota pled guilty to the charge of impersonating a police officer, and received court supervision for possessing the guns. Both of these crimes were misdemeanors.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Golota has been an LPR for 21 years, which would have been since 1991. Since Golota is married to a U.S. citizen, he could have applied for naturalization in 1994 after three years of being an LPR. If he had become a citizen, his misdemeanors in 2003 and 2006 would not now be threatening his ability to continue living in the United States.

Though Golota’s lawyers are fighting to keep him here, the immigration judge ultimately will decide if the boxer is allowed to remain in the United States. Golota’s case is just one more reminder that it is much easier to become a citizen early than to delay and find yourself in removal proceedings.

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