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Increase in People Trading in Green Cards for U.S. Citizenship

December 05, 2018 11:13 AM

(ABC 6 News)-- This time of year is about family and traditions. But some of the decorations in one Le Roy home are not Christmas - related.

They are a reminder of where Axel Gumbel grew up.

“I'm from Germany originally and I moved here in 2000,” said Gumbel, “originally to get my degree at the University of Minnesota in Broadcast Journalism.”

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Then he met his wife, Jen.

“Here we are 18 years later,” he said.

Gumbel has four kids, a past in journalism at ABC 6 News and a current career at Mayo Clinic.

“The process to get a green card was pretty tedious,” he said. “You had to fill out lots of paperwork and it was pretty expensive. It was about $2,000 at the time.”

Now, more than 10 years after getting his Lawful Permanent Residency, Gumbel is thinking about taking the next step and becoming a U.S. citizen.

“For two main reasons. One is I have lived here very long now, and the more kids I have I feel like I want to decide their future too by voting. My wife was once elected Mayor here in town. It always bugged me that I couldn’t vote for her,” said Gumbel. “And then just simply the more I live here the more you become involved and entwined in life and culture here.”

Axel isn't the only permanent resident thinking about getting his citizenship.

“There are close to 80,000 in Minnesota that would be eligible,” said Sara Karki, a Staff Attorney at the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota in Austin.

Data from U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services shows an increase in naturalization applications over the past few years in Minnesota.

“I think lately we have been seeing more people interested because of the changing climate. There's a little bit more fear about their immigration status,” said Karki.

“Unexpected things have happened but I am really far from thinking that it would impact me in being barred from coming back [to the U.S],” said Gumbel.

Gumbel says applying for naturalization is on the horizon, but he has no plans on giving up his German Citizenship.

“We try to make it back every one of two years and family comes here too,” he said. “But for now, we are happy here.”

It currently costs more than $700 for most people to apply for U.S. Citizenship. Karki says the process of naturalization for permanent residents used to take as little as 6 months … but now,  she is seeing wait times closer to 14 months.

Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota offers free legal services. For more information visit their website: https://www.ilcm.org/

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Hannah Tiede

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