|October 5, 2015 • VOL. 53, NO. 17 • Oakland, CA|
| Free help for applicants for U.S. citizenship at the cathedral Oct. 17
More than 100,000 people in the East Bay may be just 21 pages away from citizenship.
"Our goal is to try to naturalize as many people as possible," said Christopher Martinez, program director of Catholic Charities of the East Bay.
"We try to facilitate that process," Martinez said of the cooperative, of which Catholic Charities is a member. "We're all coming together as legal services," he said. "People can come to us and walk out with completed paperwork," he said.
The other groups are East Bay Sanctuary Covenant; International Institute of the Bay Area, Centro Legal de la Raza; the Korean Community Center of the East Bay; Jewish Family and Children's Services of the East Bay; International Rescue Committee; and Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach.
With six staff attorneys helping clients in Oakland, Richmond, Concord and Hayward, Catholic Charities of the East Bay is the largest provider of legal immigration services in the East Bay.
There are an estimated 170,000 permanent legal residents of the United States living in the East Bay.
"These are people who have green cards," he said.
What keeps them from continuing on to citizenship, he said, could be "mistrust, fear or cost."
The cost is $680, Martinez said, and that does not include legal representation.
Low-income people who meet special criteria based on the federal poverty guidelines are eligible to apply for a fee waiver.
With help from about 200 volunteers, the cooperative hopes to help up to 1,000 people fill out the paperwork that will begin the path to citizenship. The effort has enlisted the assistance of the deacon community, but with the need so great, additional volunteers will be required to assist with greeting, screening, running, form filling, document preparation and legal consultation.
Anyone interested in volunteering at the event can contact Jason Sullivan-Halpern at firstname.lastname@example.org or 510-768-3166 to register.
Those seeking assistance can make an appointment, but drop-ins are welcome. Doors will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Those who check-in will receive a packet, and assistance at various points in filling out the 21 pages of paperwork — additional if the fee waiver applies.
Within a month after the application has been sent — they recommend certified mail — a notice of receipt arrives. Later, there's an invitation for photos and fingerprinting. If there are no legal impediments, the applicant is called for an interview, civics test and an English test.
Why does the church care about immigration policies?
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