With all of the talk about immigration reform, it is important to remember that the power to put reform on the Congressional agenda came from immigrant votes last November. The first step towards voting is becoming a United States citizen.
Over the last two decades, immigrants have become citizens at a remarkable rate. This was sparked by the dangerous upsurge in anti-immigrant activism in the mid-1990s, but it has continued unabated ever since. Still, there are thousands of Long Islanders who are eligible for citizenship who have not yet applied.
The basic ground for eligibility is that a person must have been a permanent resident for five years. For spouses of United States citizens, the person usually only needs three years of permanent residence. There are requirements that the person be able to use English and certain serious crimes disqualify a person from applying, however, most immigrants with five years of permanent residence will qualify.
There are many benefits of becoming a citizen, but I want to talk about the two that are the most important. First is the right to vote. This right is the protection of the entire immigrant community. The second is more personal. The new citizen will never have to deal with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or ICE ever again!
If you think you might want to apply for citizenship, CARECEN is offering a free application clinic this Saturday, July 13 from 10:00 AM until 3:00 PM. Bring your permanent residence card. If you have them, bring your taxes from last year, your passport, and the records of any arrests. If you are receiving any government benefits, bring proof of that as well. We will help you for free and give you your application to mail. If you bring a check for the fee of $680 made out to “USCIS” CARECEN will even mail the application.
The citizenship day will be at 1090 Suffolk Ave. in Brentwood at the Offices of the Long Island Civic Engagement Table and Make the Road New York. Call 516-489-8330 for more information.