April 23, 2018
Maria Manzo cleaned houses, baby-sat and spent countless Sundays selling burritos at a swap meet to support her eight children, who emigrated with her from Mexico more than 30 years ago. When a son eventually became a legal resident, Manzo, now 82, was able to apply for a green card, ensuring that she, too, could remain a permanent resident of the United States.
For decades, that was enough.
Manzo had no sense of urgency about taking the next step: applying for U.S. citizenship. She had little extra money to spend on English and civics classes, which she needed to gear up for the test required to become a citizen. Her green card made her feel secure, allowing her to travel, if she wished, to see relatives in Mexico and return without hassles to her home in Garden Grove, California.
But after Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, Manzo, like many permanent residents across the U.S., began to feel differently.
Now the great-grandmother is among hundreds of thousands of permanent U.S. residents applying annually for citizenship, clogging an already-burdened system that relies mostly on fees from applicants such as Manzo to keep itself afloat.