Antonia Vallejo – Volunteering at Citizenship Day
You don’t become a legal assistant at Seifert Law Offices unless you’re passionate about helping immigrants. I gained this passion from watching my parents, family, and neighbors struggle through the immigration process. In fact, just last year, after more than 30 years of living in this country, my mom decided to apply for citizenship. I had overheard Lisa recommending One America’s Citizenship Day to clients. I shared the information about this resource with my mom and witnessed how they helped her. Ever since, I’ve tried to volunteer for this event whenever possible. I went to the most recent one in Vancouver, Washington in April.
Washington New Americans, as part of One America and alongside the American Immigration Lawyers Association puts together free citizenship clinics all around Washington, multiple times a year.
At these clinics, dedicated volunteer lawyers, paralegals, and interpreters provide top quality assistance to legal permanent residents who are eligible for citizenship by helping complete the 20 page application (and optional fee waiver application) and preparing it for submission. They even provide study materials for the citizenship civics exam, completely free of charge! It’s really an amazing service.
The process at the clinic begins when you check in and it is confirmed that you are eligible to apply. Then you meet one-on-one with an immigration lawyer to review your specific situation and see if there are any complications that might prevent you from being able to become a citizen or might endanger your current status. If that goes well, you meet with a paralegal to complete the forms. Finally, you meet with the attorney again to review the form before they print, copy, and package the whole thing for you. Overall, it can take 3-6 hours.
In the past I have volunteered as an interpreter in all the phases of the clinic. Most recently, I served as a paralegal. Both roles present their own challenges but it is very rewarding work. Many volunteers, including myself, get up very early and drive long distances to the clinic locations. Honestly, it is hard on a weekend, but when you meet the clients and see their commitment to becoming a citizen of this country, you remember why it’s worth it and you can’t help but sign up to do it again. Also, they feed the volunteers. Who can say no to a free lunch? This particular time, they had Krispy Kreme donuts!
I highly recommend either taking advantage of this incredible opportunity at a Citizenship Day clinic or volunteering. You won’t regret it. Visit https://wanewamericans.org/ for more information.
Your path to citizenship starts right this way~!