Juan De la Torre is living in the United States completely legally. He came here from Mexico with his parents at age 14. His father, a migrant worker, became a permanent resident and filed immigrant petitions for the whole family.
Eighteen years later, De la Torre is still in a constant cycle of waiting to hear from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. He's not an American citizen. He doesn't even have a green card, or permanent residency status. He's just in limbo, waiting to upgrade to a green card from his approved immigrant petition.
In the immigration debate that has gripped the country, De la Torre is one of many legal immigrants who feel they've been overlooked. What to do about millions of undocumented immigrants has been discussed at length in government and the media. But legal immigrants, who say they're spending countless hours and thousands of dollars to do it right, want reform to help their struggle, too.
De la Torre's experience isn't unheard of. For most legal immigrants, it takes at least five years to become a citizen, and that's after you already have a green card -- a process that can take years because of the finite number of visas available. Some legal immigrants live in the United States for 10 years or more before finally becoming naturalized citizens. And they want you to know that, by the way, they've had to pay taxes that whole time.