CUNY Citizenship Now! provides free, high quality, and confidential immigration law services to help individuals and families on their path to U.S. citizenship. It is the largest university legal assistance program in the nation since 1997.
There are thought to be over half a million undocumented immigrants in New York City at this time. About 70% of them have paid work, in catering, construction, retail, driving, cleaning and other trades. City regulations restrict public officials and police officers from enquiring about immigration status of residents with whom they come into contact.
Citizenship Now! has 70 employees, 30 part-time locations and 6 full-time centers available. It also holds more than 20 community-based events a year, helping over 1,500 individuals in the same time frame.
Two lawyers came to Brooklyn College on November, 29, 2018 to offer free information and resources for individuals or their loved ones’ immigration status. The lawyers explained the process by which someone can become a citizen, first by acquiring a green card. However, though it is just the first step, it can be a very difficult thing to obtain, taking long periods of time (dependent on many things, such as immigration status of family members, spouses, and country of origin), and with a lengthy application process.
The lawyers also explained how previous-Attorney General Jeff Sessions tried to completely eliminate DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), and strip citizenship for children who were born in the U.S. but whose parents were not. His attempts were rebuffed by Congress, but he was able to cancel advanced parole, disabling non-U.S. nationals from entering back into the U.S. after exiting.
After giving out the information they deemed applicable, the lawyers received questions from the audience on immigration issues. It was a very useful event.
The U.S. is currently in a very divisive political climate, especially regarding immigration. The current administration is seemingly in favor of doing anything possible to keep immigrants out, including separating children from their parents. Perhaps even more alarming, the department in place of dealing with immigration, the ICE, is practically keeping children in jails, and there have even been videos released of ICE agents laughing at the children they apprehend.
It is a sad time when humans are so impenitent, throwing the term “illegal alien” around so loosely, especially in a country where the land is all stolen. We must be compassionate and empathetic to our brothers and sisters who wish to join our country, and set a better system in place to allow good people to become citizens, rather than just “build the wall.”
I spoke with the director of CUNY Citizenship Now, Allan Wernick, and he was very passionate about the work Citizenship Now does, recommending anyone with questions come to them for help. Mr. Wernick himself oversees the entire operation, develops new projects, and advocates for funding. If someone wishes to seek help from CUNY Citizenship Now, they are to call 646-664-9400.