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Helping on the path to citizenship: DC 37 partners with CUNY to assist future citizens

Volunteers pitched in to help members with citizenship questions. City Council member Margaret Chin (blue dress) was one of the sponsors of the event.

The DC 37 Citizenship Committee partnered with CUNY Citizenship Now to assist 100 New Yorkers with issues and questions regarding their path to U.S. citizenship.

“Joining forces with CUNY Citizenship Now enabled us to help even more of our members with the application process,” said Cuthbert Dickenson, committee chair and president of Local 374.

CUNY Citizenship Now is sponsored by the City Council.

Union volunteers joined volunteers from CUNY Citizenship Now and conducted one-on-one interviews with members. They helped determine whether they are eligible for citizenship and assisted them with the often complicated application process. The Saturday afternoon session took place on Nov. 19 at union headquarters.

CUNY Citizenship Now has held similar sessions at CUNY campuses around the city with the intention of helping their students. More than half of CUNY students are foreign born. The legal assistance group provides free service.

The DC 37 Citizenship Committee was established in 1996 to help members and their families make the move from permanent resident status to full American citizenship.

Since its inception, the committee has presented citizenship and immigration forums to help members deal with the bureaucracy involved in becoming a citizen.

The committee has invited to their forums representatives from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the New York Civic Participation Project, the Comptroller’s Office and the union’s Municipal Employees Legal Services to answer questions regarding the process. Becoming a citizen means union members can exercise their right to vote and have their voices heard.

At one of the previous events sponsored by the committee, a representative from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services encouraged permanent residents with children not to delay in becoming citizens, since their children run the risk of being deported should they be arrested for even a minor infraction.

These forums also give members an opportunity to consult legal experts free of charge, Dickenson said. “Our members sometimes get the wrong information from people who want to take advantage of them,” he added. “That’s why these sessions are so important.”

Dickenson also encouraged members to apply for citizenship before the fee goes up again on Dec. 23. Members can contact MELS for a free citizenship application and consultation.