April 25, 2011

Citizenship Now!

[Page: S2499]  GPO's PDF 

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Mr. SCHUMER. Mr. President, for the past 8 years, Citizenship Now!, a project of the City University of New York and the New York Daily News, has conducted a citizenship and immigration call-in, which I have visited every time it has been held at the News headquarters in Manhattan, NY. On Monday, April 25, the ninth call-in begins, and it is anticipated that the volunteers who answer the telephone will handle the 100,000th call by Friday April 29. That means 100,000 families received information to help them get on the path to U.S. citizenship. Among the sponsors have been the NYS Bureau of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, CUNY Law School, Univision, and Radio WADO, with support from Verizon and Gristedes.

At the weeklong call-in, community paralegals, CUNY counselors, students, and other volunteers, supervised by experienced citizenship and immigration attorneys and Board of Immigration Appeals-accredited individuals, answer callers' questions. CUNY trains the volunteers at an all-day training conference that precedes the call-in, and all volunteers receive a comprehensive training manual. Whenever I visit the volunteers, I bring with me an expert staff person from my office who handles constituent inquiries from immigrants and their families. We fully appreciate the special and unique outreach effort this free public service provides.

The call-in provides an important safeguard weapon against scammers engaging in the unlawful practice of law. Callers who qualify for naturalization or another immigration benefit are referred to reputable non-for-profits. Many are referred to one of CUNY Citizenship Now!'s nine citizenship and immigration law service centers where they can get free application assistance and advice. The News features the photographs and biographies of the volunteers in print and on its Web site and runs stories about the people who are being served. When a caller wishes to contact a private attorney, she or he is referred to the New York City Bar Association referral panel and the American Immigration Lawyers Association referral service.

The CUNY/Daily News Citizenship Now! Project is by far the largest university-based immigration service program in the country assisting many thousands of individuals with citizenship and immigration law services each year, all at no cost to the applicants. This public service partnership deserves our recognition and appreciation for the superb efforts underway to help people in need. Thank you, CUNY, and thank you, New York Daily News.

(Senate - April 14, 2011)

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