City to Help Parents Become Citizens

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New York City is making a new effort to help more parents of public school students become U.S. citizens.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the program NYCitzenship, which launched last October to help city employees and their families apply for citizenship, will expand now to include parents of high school students. The program will provide free immigration information, legal assistance and financial aid to eligible parents who are lawful permanent residents.

Fatimah Shama, Commissioner of the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs, said more than 150,000 parents of New York City public school students are eligible for citizenship but they hold back for various reasons.

"Low English language proficiency, lack of knowledge about the application process and the cost of applying which at $680 can be significant for a parent in our public school system," she explained.

Mayor Bloomberg, who's been a big booster of immigration, said the nation's "broken immigration system" is hurting the economy and that immigrants "create jobs, they don't take jobs away from people." By helping parents become citizens, he said, their children under age 18 can also become citizens.

The first phase of the new initiative will begin by targeting 30,000 parents of high school students. They'll be offered fee waivers, loans from credit unions and legal assistance from volunteer lawyers with CUNY's Citizenship Now program.

The program is supported by a grant from Citi Community Development, and will coordinate with the East River Development Alliance Credit Union and Neighborhood Trust Financial Credit Union.

The first event will held on October 27th at the Morris Educational Campus in the Bronx for local families (home to Morris Academy for Collaborative Studies and three other small schools).