City of Seattle planning big push for citizenship Saturday

Liliana Caracoza takes the oath of citizenship at a ceremony in Tacoma in September 2014. (Photo by Alex Stonehill)
Liliana Caracoza takes the oath of citizenship at a ceremony in Tacoma in September 2014. (Photo by Alex Stonehill)

The Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs (OIRA) will be having its first-ever Citizenship Workshop this Saturday, murderous storm warning notwithstanding. The event will offer green card holders free help with their U.S citizenship applications.

The Citizenship Workshop is part of the city’s New Citizen Campaign. The purpose of the New Citizen Campaign is to help immigrants and refugees in Seattle by providing free services, such as screening of citizenship eligibility, citizenship tutoring, legal assistance and a lot more. Since its initiation in 1997, the campaign has helped more than 16,000 people to naturalize.

“Citizenship has been a pillar in our office, it was supported by the Mayor, wanting to push the need on citizenship here in Seattle,” said Christina Guros, Citizenship Program and Policy Specialist. “We have an estimate of 70,000 people who are eligible to become citizens and we wanted to help.”

OIRA has been announcing the Citizenship Workshop to different ethnic populations on Twitter using different languages, like Somali, Vietnamese and Spanish.  Even Mayor Murray retweeted the announcement on his own Twitter account.

Only a few days after OIRA announced a helpline for people to register for the workshop, it was shut down after reaching their expectation of 200 registrants.

“Our goal is to help 250 legal permit residents at this workshop, and we are saving the other 50 for walk-ins,” said Joaquin Uy, Ethic Media and Communications Specialist. So the helpline is now closed, but those who didn’t get a chance to sign up via helpline are welcomed as walk-ins.

“It took me more than two months to finalize my [U.S citizenship] application,” said Haiyue Yu, originally from China, who was previously a green card holder for five years. “The application wasn’t hard, there were just too many dates to fill in, and I kept on getting the dates wrong, so it took a long time to get the errors fixed.”

When asked if she would have attended the workshop if she had the opportunity, Yu’s response was a solid “no.”

“Because there is a lot of private things you need to fill out, and I don’t feel comfortable sharing those with anyone in such a public place,” she explained.

The workshop is a great resource for green card holders .

But for those who don’t speak English well enough to navigate forms on their own, or who are not familiar with the application process, this is a great opportunity.

OIRA will be hosting more workshops similar to this in the future. Another Citizenship Workshop is planned for December 4th, and “an even bigger one in 2017,” said Uy.

Regardless of the storm warning by the National Weather Service, a press release email from OIRA yesterday said the Citizenship Workshop was on. They will be updating their social media feeds: and with the latest info, and people can call the helpline on Saturday for details.

This post has been updated to correct the name of the New Citizen Campaign.

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