Why Immigrants Should Not Be Afraid Of Applying For Citizenship

Aplicar Ciudadania Amplio

Experts recognize that there is fear, but there are options for those who have a “green card”

The camera of a stranger can be a problem in a space where most people prefer to remain anonymous, in this case out of fear – perhaps unnecessarily – of immigration authorities in the United States.

Upon entering the lobby of Building “D” of LaGuardia Community College, some people look at me with surprise, but I have a clear indication: do not take the faces of immigrants, only the “pro bono” lawyers who help them. “You understand, they prefer it that way,” shares Natasha Bisbal, media officer at Catholic Migration Services (CMS).

No one should be afraid of pursuing a better quality of life, as is currently the case with many “green card” immigrants who seek to become naturalized in the US, experts who work with them agree.

“There is a lot of fear, because of what is happening now,” says Paula DaSilva-Michelin, director of the Educational Center for Immigrants of LaGuardia Community College, where on July 29 a workshop was held so that around 50 people received guidance from lawyers ” pro bono “to fill out Form N-400 and obtain citizenship.

Why is there fear if none of the people who attend this workshop are undocumented? All were pre-qualified to have access to the personalized advice of a lawyer specialized in immigration.

“I should not (be afraid),” says José León, supervising attorney for the Naturalization Unit of CMS. “We do an initial interview to determine if they are eligible or not and if they are, we send them to the workshop, where a group of volunteer lawyers help them fill out the forms.”

Leon explains that the main thing that immigrants should do with Legal Permanent Residence or “green card” is to be honest with whom they will give advice, because hiding “a detail” could cause problems before Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), where they must present your documents.

The lobby that students habitually use for rest, reading, listening to music or having a coffee with friends was enabled to provide help; It is part of the work of the area run by DaSilva-Michelin, who recognizes that immigration services are requested by undocumented immigrants, for whom there are restrictions, especially if they seek to apply for federal programs.

“Since 2017 the federal government instructed us to ask for the immigration status of people before offering one of our services … we do not penalize, we never ask,” he says, but now they have to do it for certain help, although for others they can provide guidance. “It’s interesting, because half of our ‘students’ have that … that is, they are not undocumented … they can not apply.” There they will study English, know their rights, the programs that the city has for them.

Paula DaSilva-Michelin

Paula DaSilva-Michelin, de LaGuardia Community College. / FOTO: JESÚS GARCÍA

Paula DaSilva-Michelin, de LaGuardia Community College. / FOTO: JESÚS GARCÍA

The original expert from Brazil recognizes that New York is like “a world apart”, where nevertheless there are raids or detentions of undocumented people almost every day, according to the ICEWatch map, which documented more than 700 actions -including large raids- of 2013 To the date.

“We tell the undocumented to the types of benefits they can access,” DaSilva-Michelin explains and notes that they work with organizations such as CMS, to which they “gave permission for them to carry out workshops like this one”, where immigrants can give an decisive step.

What is the first thing that an immigrant with a “green card” must take into account to apply to citizenship? “Be honest with us,” Leon says without hesitation, because that will give a more accurate advice.

“An extensive criminal record, where the person could not necessarily be in deportation proceedings, can be a problem,” explains the lawyer with extensive experience in immigration matters, including cases of deportation or deferred action (DACA). “When the person became a resident he could not have lied or committed fraud and we tried to make it clear, but people are not always honest … they should always keep in mind that they should not lie, if they are not honest with us, because they can have serious problems”

José León

José León coordina al equipo legal que revisa las aplicaciones de ciudadanía. / FOTO: JESÚS GARCÍA

José León coordina al equipo legal que revisa las aplicaciones de ciudadanía. / FOTO: JESÚS GARCÍA

The Northwestern University graduate expert recognizes that sometimes a case can be easier than an immigrant thinks.

“There are … if the person has paid their taxes, has no history of arrests, nothing in their history that may be negative in their country of origin or in the US,” he explains.

Signatures such as Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP; Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP, and Goldman Sachs volunteers join this help for immigrants.

The organization conducts workshops regularly, just in April had completed one in Brooklyn, but this time he chose to do it in Queens, where a high percentage of the population is an immigrant. In Jackson Heights alone, for example, people from more than 100 countries can be found, as the filmmaker Frederich Wiseman put it in his documentary “In Jackson Heights.”

Despite changes in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), lawyers recognize that immigrants have options that the law gives them, one more reason to face fear.

Naturalization Workshop

José León coordina al equipo legal que revisa las aplicaciones de ciudadanía. / FOTO: JESÚS GARCÍA

José León coordina al equipo legal que revisa las aplicaciones de ciudadanía. / FOTO: JESÚS GARCÍA

To take into account
Immigrants with a “green card” who seek to apply for citizenship should consider:

Comply with the requirement of residence in the country of three or five years, depending on the case.
Pay your taxes as required by law.
Do not commit fraud with federal aid.
If you have a criminal history, tell the details to your legal representative.
The fact of having a criminal offense does not disqualify the person from applying for citizenship.
If you lied to get the Legal Permanent Residence you should tell your lawyer or legal representative.

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