Bostonians who hope to become US citizens will get an assist this month from city officials who are teaming up with a non-profit organization to help streamline the naturalization process.
The Mayor’s Office of New Bostonians has pitched in with Project Citizenship to co-host Citizenship Day on Sat., Sept. 26, at the Timilty School in Roxbury.
Veronica Serrato, executive director of Project Citizenship, talked about the event at a City Hall press conference last week, noting that Citizenship Day aims to give 250 legal permanent residents access to more than 100 trained volunteers, ranging from community members, attorneys, law students, and lawyers who will provide pro-bono counsel with the citizenship application.
The financial cost of becoming a citizen is one of the biggest obstacles facing applicants, Serrato said. The Sept. 26 event will provide free of charge everything needed for a citizenship application, including the opportunity to have an applicant’s passport photo taken on site. The entire process, from background checks to naturalization, usually takes about six months, but that can vary, according to Project Citizenship.
The day’s activities will also include a naturalization ceremony for 175 new citizens. After the ceremony, the new citizens will be able to register to vote at the school, said Dion Irish, chairman of the city’s Board of Election Commissioners. “Everyone should have a voice,” he said. “That is the democratic process.”
Lynne Celestin, a recently naturalized citizen who now works in the city’s Elections Department, talked about what it meant for her to become a citizen: “I was born in Haiti but my whole childhood has been here in America,” she said. “My growth has been here, the life that I know is not of Haiti, but of America. I became a permanent resident of this country in 2006 and the next step after five years would be for me to become a citizen. Becoming a US citizen is a change of status, not a change of identity. It enables you to have better and more opportunities.”
Project Citizenship, through funding from various foundations and corporations, connects legal permanent residents to the resources they need to become citizens by providing some direct services and also helping with preparations for the civics test.
To participate in Citizenship Day, individuals should call the Project’s office at 617-694-5949 to register. More information, available in different languages, can also be found at projectcitizenship.org.