On Tuesday I addressed a room filled with people who had come to hear about a new program to help permanent residents apply for citizenship. I found it a happy contrast to the situation on Long Island a half-decade earlier.
Five years ago, reporters gathered here on Long Island to cover the hate killing of Ecuadoran immigrant Marcelo Lucero in Patchogue. Over the preceding decade, stories on immigrants being abducted and beaten, and immigrant housing being firebombed were common Long Island stories.
Much has changed since then. Both Nassau and Suffolk Counties have new policies making county government more accessible. The Suffolk County police, under monitoring from the United States Department of Justice, is making strides in protecting immigrant communities. And most importantly, Long Islanders and Long Island businesses are recognizing the contributions of immigrants and standing up for their rights.
This new Pathway to Citizenship LI program announced Tuesday will give immigrant Long Islanders the most important tool they need to thrive here—the right to vote and to participate fully in civic life. That so many sectors of our community support this important initiative—including Citibank to Bethpage Federal Credit, the Governor’s office to the Secretaries of State and Labor, the Hempstead Mayor’s office, and many non-profits—shows that we are turning our backs on the haters. Long Island is moving forward.
Long Island has more immigrants than any other suburban community in the United States. With 450,000 foreign-born living here, we are a bigger immigrant gateway than cities like Boston and Philadelphia. Our immigrant community includes more than 100,000 legal permanent residents eligible for citizenship, and this new program helps to create a pathway for them to become fully part of Long Island life.
Those who come to CARECEN for help under the Pathway program will be given free professional legal assistance to apply for citizenship. They will be eligible for free classes to help prepare for the citizenship exam and for their naturalization interview. Those who can’t afford the Department of Homeland Security’s fee for naturalization will be assisted in applying for a waiver, or may qualify for a micro-loan to help pay.
To access this comprehensive program, interested individuals should call 516-489-8330.