Immigrants Received Free Legal Assistance Ahead of Likely USCIS Fee Increase and Naturalization Test Redesign
CUNY Citizenship Now!, the nation’s largest university-based immigration law program, partnered with TelevisaUnivision and Dominicanos USA to assist 268 green card holders in applying for U.S. citizenship, surpassing the organizers’ initial goal.
Citizenship Now!’s legal staff were joined by nearly 180 volunteers, government officials and community organizations for the all-day in-person event Saturday at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan.
“The Citizenship Now! initiative continues to affirm CUNY’s role as a beacon of support, education and hope for immigrant New Yorkers,” said CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez. “We thank our volunteers, community partners and government officials whose support made this event possible, and congratulate the nearly 270 immigrant New Yorkers who attended for taking one of the final steps in the journey to become U.S. citizens.”
New York Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez and Commissioner Manuel Castro of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA) attended the event alongside Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine.
“New York stands proud of its immigrant history and the Office for New Americans is supporting immigrant communities with valuable resources to pave the way to become American citizens,” said New York Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez. “I’m honored to support the CUNY Citizenship Now! Program and its ongoing support for our immigrant community by providing them with necessary tools to make the U.S. citizenship process easier and therefore allowing our new Americans to thrive and contribute to our state.”
Saturday’s event continued a monthly Citizenship Now! “Subway Series” campaign supported by the New York City Council that began in the fall of 2022 to provide free legal assistance to naturalization applicants before anticipated federal fee increases and changes to the citizenship test. The series, which runs through the end of June, is expected to serve 1,000 permanent residents, making it the largest initiative of its kind in the metropolitan area.
“It was an honor to attend this past weekend’s Citizenship Subway Series Special Edition Event and see the impact of CUNY Citizenship Now!’s services. This effective clinical model has helped thousands of New Yorkers naturalize over its 25 years of operation,” said Manuel Castro, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. “New York City also leads the way by dedicating more funding to immigration legal services than any municipality in the nation. And this year, the city has dedicated tens of millions in funding to immigration legal service programs to help immigrant New Yorkers apply for immigration benefits and become naturalized citizens. I am excited for MOIA’s continued partnership with CUNY.”
“Becoming a citizen of the United States is a dream for so many immigrants. The increased cost for the application and changes to the civics exam will present additional barriers to realizing this dream,” said Monique Francis, interim executive director of CUNY Citizenship Now! “CUNY Citizenship Now! is committed to helping every eligible green card holder in New York City apply for naturalization because no matter how small the increase, for an immigrant, every dollar counts.”
“At TelevisaUnivision, we are committed to supporting civic initiatives that help Hispanics succeed and prosper,” said Roberto Yañez, president and regional general manager for TelevisaUnivision’s Northeast corridor. “In that spirit, our work with CUNY and Dominicanos USA will enable access to the critical resources and services that will put permanent residents on the path to become American citizens.”
“There are more than one million green card holders in New York, all of whom are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship. When people become citizens, they can vote and make their voices heard on local policy decisions in their communities and on state and national levels,” said Eddie Cuesta, executive director of Dominicanos USA (DUSA). “They have the right to a U.S. passport and to apply for federal jobs. DUSA is delighted to partner with CUNY Citizenship Now! And Univision to help green card holders complete their citizenship and fee waiver applications, all free of charge.”
Eligible participants left Saturday’s event with a completed citizenship application packet to send to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Since its founding in 1997, Citizenship Now!, a national model for immigration assistance, has helped more than 223,000 people with consultations and applications for benefits such as citizenship, green cards, Temporary Protected Status (TPS), Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and employment authorization. CUNY Citizenship Now! is also a national leader in utilizing volunteers in large-scale events: The program has completed more naturalization applications than any other provider in New York City in the last 26 years.
Citizenship Now!’s services are free and available to the general public, not just the CUNY community. To register for the upcoming event in June or for more information, permanent residents should call 646-664-9400 or text 929-334-3784.
The event was co-sponsored by prominent non-profits, law firms and government agencies including Access Justice Brooklyn; American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), New York Chapter; Bloomberg L.P.; CUNY School of Law; Dominican Bar Association; Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP; Gibney Anthony & Flaherty, LLP; John Jay College of Criminal Justice; NALEO Educational Fund; New Americans Campaign (NAC); New York City Council; NYC Department of Social Services; NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA); NYS Office for New Americans; Raised By Us; Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP; and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
TelevisaUnivision is the world’s leading Spanish-language media company. Powered by the largest library of owned Spanish-language content and a prolific production capability, TelevisaUnivision is the top producer of original content in Spanish across news, sports and entertainment verticals. This original content powers all of TelevisaUnivision’s platforms, which include market-leading broadcast networks Univision, Las Estrellas, Canal 5 and UniMás, and a portfolio of 38 cable networks, which include TUDN, Galavisión, Distrito Comedia and TL Novelas. The company also operates the leading Mexican movie studio, Videocine, and owns and operates the largest Spanish-language audio platform in the U.S. across 39 terrestrial stations and the Uforia digital platform. TelevisaUnivision is also the owner of ViX, the largest Spanish-language streaming platform in the world. For more information, please visit televisaunivision.com.
Dominicanos USA (DUSA) is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization committed to the civic, social, and economic integration of Dominican Americans into the fabric of American society. It strives to ensure that every U.S. citizen is able to freely exercise their civic rights, realize their full potential, and capitalize on all opportunities the U.S. has to offer. DUSA’s contribution to making this vision a reality begins with its work in the Dominican-American community. Since its founding in 2013, DUSA has become one of the most renowned and respected Latino organizations in New York City. Its two seminal programs – one on voter registration and mobilization and the other a free-of-charge citizenship application assistance clinic – have reached and engaged thousands of Latino individuals with bilingual information critical to their civic participation. DUSA’s newest program, DUSA Codes, creates life-changing technology experiences that embolden students to shape their future while teaching the importance of civic engagement.
The City University of New York is the nation’s largest urban public university, a transformative engine of social mobility that is a critical component of the lifeblood of New York City. Founded in 1847 as the nation’s first free public institution of higher education, CUNY today has seven community colleges, 11 senior colleges and seven graduate or professional institutions spread across New York City’s five boroughs, serving over 243,000 undergraduate and graduate students and awarding 55,000 degrees each year. CUNY’s mix of quality and affordability propels almost six times as many low-income students into the middle class and beyond as all the Ivy League colleges combined. More than 80 percent of the University’s graduates stay in New York, contributing to all aspects of the city’s economic, civic and cultural life and diversifying the city’s workforce in every sector. CUNY’s graduates and faculty have received many prestigious honors, including 13 Nobel Prizes and 26 MacArthur “Genius” Grants. The University’s historic mission continues to this day: provide a first-rate public education to all students, regardless of means or background.