BOSTON—Hundreds of residents shuffled in and out of the Reggie Lewis Center Saturday for free legal advice and assistance with their U.S. citizenship applications on the ninth annual Boston “Citizenship Day.”
The Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Advancement (MOIA) and Project Citizenship hosted the in-person workshop on April 1. Mayor Michelle Wu made a brief appearance to show her support and thank everyone involved in the collaborative event.
“I’m feeling really emotional being here actually. I’m the daughter of two naturalized citizens and it took them years and years to get through that process,” Mayor Wu shared at the event. “I’m really excited that we are lowering those barriers for so many here today. We are going to continue to find ways to do that all throughout the year as well.”
Wonderful Citizenship Day led by @BOSImmigrants helping provide free legal assistance to neighbors & community members working on their citizenship application—ensuring we’re doing all we can to support clear pathways to citizenship. pic.twitter.com/RPsmREcmyx— Mayor Michelle Wu 吳弭 (@MayorWu) April 2, 2023
About 29% of Boston’s total population is foreign-born with around 30,000 Boston residents eligible for U.S. citizenship. According to MOIA, 28% of foreign-born immigrants identify as Hispanic/Latino, 27% as Black/African American, and 26% as Asian/Pacific Islander.
Since its beginning in 2014, “Citizenship Day”—organized by the City of Boston and Project Citizenship—has helped almost 3,000 applicants begin their paths toward U.S. citizenship.
“Becoming a U.S. citizen is an important milestone for many immigrants, but it can be a complicated and expensive process,” commented Mayor Wu. “Citizenship Day helps eliminate one of those barriers.”
The process of becoming a U.S. citizen can cost thousands of dollars in legal fees. Assistance from a lawyer can range from $500 to $2,500.
Hundreds of volunteers—including lawyers, pro bono attorneys, law students, and community members—come together each year to help set up the extensive workshop or personally guide Boston residents through the 20-page citizenship application for free.
Although there are still application fees, low-income residents may qualify for a fee waiver through U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)—learn more at www.uscis.gov/i-912
One Percent for America, a Boston nonprofit, also offered access to 1% interest loans to assist with fees such as the $725 charge for processing an application.
“Citizenship allows people to participate in our democracy and be civically engaged,” said Executive Director Mitra Shavarini of Project Citizenship. “By providing free legal help, we make sure citizenship isn’t just for people who can afford it.”
The Boston-based nonprofit, Project Citizenship, looks to provide free workshops, eligibility screening, application assistance, legal referrals, and other support year-round to residents applying for U.S. citizenship.
“On average, we have served applicants from over 50 countries in a single day event and we have completed over 1,200 fee waivers, providing financial support for low-income applicants, during these workshops,” reads the Project Citizenship website. “This annual event promotes the importance of citizenship for the health and vitality of our city.”
Thank you to everyone who participated in Citizenship Day 2023! With the help of almost 300 volunteers, today we helped over 400 people fill out their citizenship application for free! pic.twitter.com/8UD6H7hqvQ— Immigrant Advancement – Boston (@BOSImmigrants) April 1, 2023