By Victoria Merlino
The City University of New York and the New York Daily News are teaming up to open the path to U.S. citizenship in one of the largest events of its kind ever seen in New York City.
In honor of Citizenship Day, CUNY and the News’ Citizenship Now! program will offer free immigration services to 600 permanent residents applying for citizenship at Manhattan’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice on Sept. 21. The event takes place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will provide personalized assistance in completing citizenship applications and applying for fee waivers.
“This gathering … is a testament to the commitment of all of us at CUNY that we have to our enduring mission: opening the doors of opportunity to people of all backgrounds,” CUNY Chancellor Felix Matos Rodriguez said during a press conference announcing the event.
Matos Rodriguez told the crowd about a group of “DREAMers” entering their first year at CUNY schools. The students came to the United States as young children with their parents and do not have documentation.
“They were all talented, motivated young people,” Matos Rodriguez said, “who were brought to this country by their parents at a very young age. They know no other country than this one. They are Americans in every sense of the word, but in their paperwork.”
These students were afraid of deportation under the current political climate, Matos Rodriguez said, and were starting college with mixed emotions.
“This brings me back to CUNY’s historical mission and to why Citizenship Now! is more relevant to that mission than at any other time in our history,” he said.
“All the help that I got though Citizenship Now! helped me a lot,” said Luzdars Lozar through a translator, who became a U.S. citizen with help from the Citizenship Now! Program, at the press conference. Lozar immigrated from Colombia to the United States in 2010, and became a citizen this September. The program helped her with paperwork and referred her to English classes.
CUNY Citizenship Now! began in 1997, and has grown into the largest university-based legal assistance program in the country.
The program offers free immigration law services to over 15,000 people every year at six immigration centers and at the offices of 30 city councilmembers,including ten from Queens.
Find a location near you at cuny.edu/citizenshipnow
To register for the citizenship application initiative, individuals should call (646) 664-9400.