On Monday, March 28th, Esperanza Immigration Legal Services hosted a Citizenship Day information session to educate the community about eligibility requirements to apply for United States citizenship. After being screened with a trained volunteer, eligible lawful permanent residents were scheduled for a free appointment on National Citizenship Day, which will be held in Philadelphia at the Community College of Philadelphia on April 9, 2016. During Citizenship Day, local volunteer attorneys will prepare citizenship applications free of charge.
Nearly 200 residents showed up to the information session, but the capacity of the space was only 85, and many had to be turned away. This influx of community members seeking information on citizenship demonstrates a great need for information and perhaps even a desire to be naturalized in time to vote in the Presidential Election. According to federal figures, naturalization in the last six months of 2015 increased by 14 percent from recent years, and they estimate applications could approach one million in 2016, about 200,000 more than the average. Check out Telemundo’s coverage en Español!
“Citizenship assistance has been one of Esperanza Immigration Legal Services’ signature projects since we were founded in 2009,” said EILS Executive Director Mary Clark, “and we’ve assisted hundreds of individuals in naturalizing in the past seven years. Not only does naturalization allow new Americans to vote and hold office, studies show that those who naturalize have increased economic opportunities and success. ‘Citizenship Day 2016’ is an opportunity for EILS to assist individuals on a large scale, with the assistance of pro-bono attorneys and volunteers across the city, who help to provide free citizenship assistance on a single day. This year, with the excitement over the Presidential election in November, we expect an even larger turnout than usual.”
EILS provides community education, advocacy and low-cost, non-litigation legal services to low-income immigrants and their families, including self-petitions for victims of domestic violence, special visas for unaccompanied minors, green card applications, family petitions and naturalization applications. EILS also offers workshops in English and Spanish to help immigrant families thrive in the U.S., on topics such as financial literacy, debunking common immigration myths, and preparation for emergency situations.
Individuals must attend an Information Session in order to be eligible for Citizenship Day appointments and space is limited. The full schedule of, and details for Information Sessions throughout Philadelphia and surrounding counties are on the website: www.StepUpToCitizenship.org.
National Pro Bono Citizenship Day is a project of the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association (AILA), the City of Philadelphia Office of Immigrant Affairs, HIAS Pennsylvania, Multicultural Community Family Services, Keystone Opportunities Center, the Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center (PIRC), Duane Morris LLP, Esperanza Immigration Legal Services, the Nationalities Service Center, CASA, the Hispanic Bar Association of Philadelphia, St. Rocco’s Church in Chester County, St. Thomas Aquinas Church in South Philadelphia, the North Penn Community Health Foundation in Colmar, ACLAMO Family Center in Norristown, the Martin Library in York, and the Community College of Philadelphia’s Center for Business and Industry.