by Ed Wilkinson
The diocese has unveiled a new program that will assist qualified permanent residents to become citizens of the U.S. At a press conference held March 2 outside Our Lady of Sorrows Church, Corona, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio was joined by local politicians, including U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, in making the announcement.
The program, called Cambia Tu Vida (Change Your life), will be conducted by the diocese’s Migration Services and will include two major recruitment days in April.
“It is estimated that over half a million New Yorkers are eligible to become United States citizens,” said Bishop DiMarzio. “Today, I encourage all eligible legal permanent residents to take the first step toward citizenship by calling the Cambia Tu Vida, the Catholic Migration Services hotline, at 1-855-622-6242.
“I also wish to say that this campaign occurs within the context of a larger movement for comprehensive immigration reform. Sadly, too many individuals and families in New York and throughout our country are shut out from the benefits not only of citizenship but of any form of legal status.
“Our current immigration system is broken. The consequences of this are inhumane treatment of peaceful and hardworking people, the painful separation of families and our failure to realize the tremendous economic benefits from legalization. Catholic Migration Services is here to help.”
Mega Workshops Planned
Some newcomers to the country who qualify for citizenship are deterred by the cost of legal assistance, the daunting paper work or they are simply not aware of the procedure. Diocesan Migration Services will walk them through the process at two “mega workshops” on April 5 and 26.
The workshops will help participants fill out forms and be prepared for the citizenship test.
“According to the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration, there’s a potential $21 to $45 billion increase in the cumulative earnings of immigrants over 10 years depending on how aggressively citizenship is pursued,” Bishop DiMarzio said.
The announcement is part of the New Americans Campaign (NAC), an unprecedented nonpartisan national network of more than 80 organizations who have come together to encourage and assist eligible legal permanent residents (LPRs) in becoming U.S. citizens.
Beginning this month, Catholic Migration Services will launch a series of English- and Spanish-language public service announcements on local television stations, print and social media and grassroots publicity efforts. The campaign will encourage legal permanent residents to register for one of several “mega workshops” to be conducted by Catholic Migration Services.
Catholic Migration Services (CMS) hopes to assist over 1,000 eligible individuals to complete and submit applications for naturalization. This assistance will be provided by CMS attorneys, counselors and pro bono volunteers.
Father Patrick Keating, executive director of Catholic Migration Services, said Our Lady of Sorrows was chosen as the site for the press conference because “it is home to more than 9,000 hardworking immigrants.”
Guided by its pastor, Msgr. Thomas Healy, it has one of the largest weekly Mass attendances in Brooklyn or Queens.
Father Keating gave special credit to the work of the CMS legal team that is directed by Robert McCreanor.
Always Welcomed Immigrants
Sen. Schumer praised the work of the Catholic Church in welcoming immigrants. “The reason America is a great country is because we have always welcomed immigrants,” he said. “The Catholic Church has been amazing in the way it has welcomed immigrants.”
Others in attendance were Congresswoman Grace Meng; Assemblyman Francisco Moya; City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito; City Council members Julissa Ferreras and Hector Machada; Kelly Marie Fay Rodriguez of AFL-CIO’s Immigration and Community Action; and Hector Figueroa of 32BJ / SEIU.