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LIC clinic helps immigrants apply for citizenship

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About 50 registered immigrants attended a naturalization workshop clinic Saturday to receive free legal assistance with their naturalization applications at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City despite some anxiety that this is a perilous time to seek citizenship because of the Trump administra­tion’s attitude toward immigrants.

New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, in partnership with Catholic Migration Services, LaGuardia Community College and multiple participating law firms, held their first naturalization workshop in Queens to provide access and services to immigrants seeking to become American citizens. NYLPI and CMS host four naturalization workshops a year.

“We do a lot of work to make clients feel comfortable,” said Annamaria Santamaria, program associate of Pro Bono Programs at NYLPI. “We make sure there’s translation support, that confidentiality remains between attorneys and clients, and make sure clients understand their process and what to expect.”

The law firms included Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP, and volunteers from Goldman Sachs.

According to Chloe Moore, coordinator at Catholic Migration Services, there is now a general feeling of fear about becoming denaturalized, since it’s a risky time to apply for citizenship.

“We’re seeing immigration using a lot more discretion to deny cases or to ask for addition evidence, documents, and they’re looking more closely at documents and criminal history,” said Moore. “But that’s why we’re here to help, to make people unafraid and provide the best service and give legal advice.”

Santamaria said people who are unable to pay the application fee of $725 can apply for a fee waiver, and complete the form with an attorney to be sent to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Afterwards, they meet with a CMS attorney who has expertise in immigration law and lastly check out with volunteers to package their application and find out the next steps in the process.

Prior to the event, permanent green card residents called the immigration service hotline to be pre-screened for eligibility to fill out their naturalization application, said Santamaria.

In order to be eligible for naturalization, the most basic requirements include: permanent lawful residents who are at least 18 years old and have had a green card for at least five years and have lived in the state or district where they are applying for at least three months.

Moore said people who were not registered were able to do a quick pre-screening to determine their eligibility for naturalization and schedule another appointment in their office.

“After filling out their application today, in about a month or so they’ll get a notice from USAS to get a fingerprint appointment and then there will be a very long wait between 10-17 months for their interview and exam on the same day,” said Moore. “An immigration officer will review the application with them, and if they don’t pass the exam, they’ll get a second chance, and if they don’t pass again, they’ll get denied.”

Applicants receive booklets that are given by the USCIS containing all of the civics questions that could come up in the exam, and a CD with practice questions, said Jose Leon, an attorney, who has worked with CMS for 4 1/2 years.

“Everyone was very helpful, informative, and courteous,” said a client, who chose to remain anonymous. “Years ago, I didn’t feel the urgency to get dual citizenship. I’m doing it now finally.”

Santamaria touted the benefits of the clinic.

“Oftentimes these services can be out of reach for people, and making these services free means more immigrant New Yorkers can access what they need to strive and flourish in New York City,” she said.

Reach reporter Carlotta Mohamed by e-mail at cmohamed@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4526.

Updated 7:37 am, August 8, 2018
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Reader feedback

Helton from Flushing says:
I love how the article editorializes instead of stating facts. Which violates Journalism 101.

The article states that "despite some anxiety that this is a perilous time to seek citizenship because of the Trump administra­tion’s attitude toward immigrants."

That is a false statement and the TL knows it.

The correct reporting of this story would properly state that "despite some anxiety that this is a perilous time to seek citizenship because of the Trump administra­tion’s attitude toward ILLEGAL immigrants."

Stop lumping legal and illegal immigrants together as if they are the same thing when you know full well that they are not.

Legal immigrants have nothing to fear because they are in the country legally.

Illegal immigrants have everything to fear because they have broken the law and are in the country illegally.

If you want to come to this country, then respect our laws and do it properly. If you do, America will welcome you with open arms.
Aug. 8, 10:31 am
tired of FAKE NEWS from Queens says:
Will this publication every stop LYING? Our elected President does not like ILLEGAL aliens, some incorrectly refer to these people as "immigrants". They break into the country instead of following Congress' laws. He realizes the value of immigrants and believes in helping them become citizens. Please try and tell the truth. You will see it does not hurt.
Aug. 8, 2:15 pm
Dwayne from Queens says:
The Mohamed woman twisting facts about Trump's 'attitude towards immigrants'. Trump enforcing the immigration laws as Obama (sometimes) did yet we hear no mewling about Obama from the Mohamed amateur. Add to that Mohamed is likely an illegal intruder herself plus hasn't written a word about the Ocasio chick's admiration for despot Fidel Castro's mass murder of his own people and cruel socialism policies. Typical lame reporting from this Mohamed cretin.
Aug. 11, 7:46 am
Dwayne from Queens says:
oh and uh...Mohamed woman while you're gnashing your unbrushed teeth check out this real fact, as opposed to your feeble and obvious lies: In 2013 alone Obama had 72,410 illegal children separated from their families while Pres. Trump's number was 2,000. Add to those facts is that the USA has long-embraced our legal immigrants who have been slapped around by you disgusting liberals. Dry your snowflake-y dumbed-down tears, Mohamed.
Aug. 11, 7:58 am
milagros from Queens says:
Those 'separating' policies were put into place by Barack Obama himself and way before Trump came onto the political scene.
Aug. 11, 8:02 am

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