Immigration Office Discriminates against the Disabled? 

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The immigration laws passed by Congress provide special provisions for people with disabilities. In particular, there is a process called disability naturalization, where individuals who cannot learn to speak English or otherwise retain information because of a disability, can be exempted from certain parts of the naturalization process.

As background, naturalization is the process to become a U.S. citizen. To become a citizen, a person must first, generally, have been a permanent resident with a green card. To obtain citizenship through naturalization, a person must speak English, take a history test and know how to read and write English. An exception to all of this, is if they have a disability such as blindness, deafness, mental disorder, etc.

While historically, the immigration service has approved many of these cases, I have noticed a trend in Houston lately where the interviewing officers are looking for ways to deny disability naturalization or otherwise give the disabled a hard time. For example, in a case that I  had at the Houston immigration office today, the officer, Ms. C. Arredando, claimed that she could not read the doctor’s writing on the immigration form that the doctor is supposed to complete.

While doctors may be notorious for their poor handwriting, the doctor’s writing in this case was clearly legible to this Houston immigration attorney. When the officer was losing that argument, she then claimed that the doctor’s signature was not original, but rather a scanned copy. All the while, this poor disabled client who does not speak English was being told she would have to come back (after driving two hours to get there and waiting over an hour until her name was called) another day with a clearer form and original signature.

Sadly, this is the new reality of how disabled clients may expect to be treated when visiting the Houston immigration office. The notion of the government accommodating people with disabilities does not seem to ring true, from my recent experiences, at the Houston immigration office. Perhaps the current strategy of the Houston immigration office is to frustrate as many people as possible so that they will drop their efforts to become a U.S. citizen.

For further information, I can be contacted at bruce.coane@gmail.com or 713.850.0066 or 305.538.6800.