Outreach is Critical to Citizenship Days

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Every couple of months at CARECEN we host a Citizenship Day. These are some of the happiest days out of the year for us. On Citizenship Day, CARECEN volunteers and law students from Hofstra and Touro law schools work to reach out to the immigrant community, educate them about citizenship, and assist them in applying.

Our most recent Citizenship Day was held at the offices of LICET and Make the Road in Brentwood and was organized by students in the Hofstra Immigration Law Clinic. The students are supervised by Professor Lauris Wren and me.

Part of the purpose of the clinic is not just to teach students lawyering skills, but also to help them learn to plan and execute events. As one student, Sneha Raj, said, ”Not only did I learn about the various issues people had in applying for naturalization at the event, but I also learned how to modify a flyer, how to recruit volunteers, advertise and interact with people about the event in the community and coordinate the event on the day of so that everyone had a smooth experience.”

I try to get students to understand that even the best event is worthless if no one shows up, so they fanned out through the Brentwood and Central Islip area visiting bodegas and talking to women in nail salons and men in barber shops. In a post-event analysis, student Alex Carrion said that in the future, there needs to be even more emphasis on outreach.

The day itself was perfect for the students. Seven clinic members and six other law students showed up early on a Saturday to work on naturalization. The clinic students did intakes of prospective clients and organized the workflow while the volunteers learned how to prepare applications.

Sneha Raj summed up the experience for many of the students:

I appreciated that people valued our services even though we were young law students. The experience was rewarding and made me realize how important pro bono work is and the importance of giving back to the community, because many people rely on such services who may otherwise not be able to afford to apply for naturalization even if they are otherwise eligible.

Another student, Jong Lee, declared that “Citizenship Day was a very rewarding experience.”

For more information on how to access free citizenship services, call CARECEN at 516-489-8330..

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Patrick Young blogs daily for Long Island Wins. He is the Downstate Advocacy Director of the New York Immigration Coalition and Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra School of Law. He served as the Director of Legal Services and Program at Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) for three decades before retiring in 2019. Pat is also a student of immigration history and the author of The Immigrants' Civil War.

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