On Tuesday, September 17th, our country celebrated
Constitution Day and Citizenship Day. During Constitution Week, from September
17th to September 23rd, more than 34,000 people became citizens during
approximately 316 naturalization ceremonies nationwide.
A naturalization ceremony is a joyous and moving event,
which all Americans should have the opportunity to witness. Immigrants from
countries near and far vow to support and defend the Constitution, recite the
Pledge of Allegiance and proudly wave the American flag. For most new citizens,
getting to this milestone is the result of hard work and preparation.
At the Emerald Isle Immigration Center, we provide lawful
permanent residents with the support they need to be successful on their path
to citizenship. It is a privilege to work with these aspiring citizens, and we
now continue to have an even greater ability to assist those in our local
community through a generous grant from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration
We are one of 41 organizations across the country to receive
this competitive grant award. The funding we will receive, totaling $250,000,
will help support our citizenship preparation services for the next two years.
The Emerald Isle Immigration Center is a
community-based organization with
offices in Woodside, Queens and Woodlawn in the Bronx. Over thirty years ago
the Emerald Isle Immigration Center was established as a Center to provide
day-to-day assistance to newly arrived Irish immigrants. Since those early days a small hard-working
staff, dedicated Board and many volunteers spent long hours helping people with
important matters; bank accounts, driver’s licenses, housing, medical
insurance, education and protection under the law. The Center helped thousands
to apply for visas after 1990 and has since assisted many more thousands to
follow through and get their green cards and attain US citizenship.
Since 1988, the Center has broadened the scope of its
services to include legal assistance, citizenship preparation and adult
literacy, social services and employment related services to all immigrants. We
assist more than 20,000 individuals each year by providing case assistance,
information, and referrals. We offer direct legal representation on immigration
and citizenship cases to over 1,000 low-income immigrants and New York City
residents annually. Over the past year, we have represented clients from
seventy-three countries, including Ireland.
The Center has always placed great emphasis on American
citizenship and civic engagement and we see empowerment, integration and
participation as vital factors in the well-being of the community we serve. We
are very grateful and proud to have received funding over the past eight years
and for the next two years from the USCIS Office of Citizenship to provide
legal assistance and instruction to those seeking to become U.S. citizens. The
additional funding will allow us to continue to provide our educational and legal
assistance to 880 needy lawful permanent residents through multi-level classes
led by trained instructors and direct legal assistance in understanding and
filing for naturalization.
This is the eleventh year USCIS has awarded grants to expand
the availability of high-quality citizenship preparation services for lawful
permanent residents across the nation. With this USCIS grant, our efforts will
have a larger impact in helping some of our fellow community members achieve
their dream of U.S. citizenship. By helping immigrants improve their English
language skills and learn about our country’s history and government, and the
rights and responsibilities that define citizenship, we will help them
civically integrate – and that’s good for us all.
With civic integration comes participation – in service
groups, school boards, homeowners associations, charitable organizations and
many other worthy causes. This citizen-driven community participation is a
hallmark of what makes this country great.
We at the Emerald Isle Immigration Center can’t help but
feel an extra boost of patriotism this week as we recognize the achievement of
those who will naturalize. We are proud to be a part of a process that is so
important for our country and for our community and look forward to serving at
least 880 more people as they pursue their own dream of becoming U.S. citizens.