Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Pro Bono Citizenship Day, March 29, 2014


To:                  Press and Media Outlets
From:              Michelle Kobler, Esq. on behalf of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) - Philadelphia Chapter-mkobler@klaskolaw.com, 215-825-8606
Re:                  Pro Bono Citizenship Day – March 29, 2014

Helping Our Community Members Become U.S. Citizens:
Pro Bono Citizenship Day on Saturday, March 29, 2014

For more than 200 years, America has remained strong because of its diverse citizenship and the common civic values we share.  Pro Bono Citizenship Day is a national initiative convened by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and local partner organizations. In Philadelphia, the partnership groups are holding the event on Saturday, March 29th, earlier than the national event scheduled for April 26th to increase law student participation.  During the day, eligible low income permanent residents (green card holders) will receive free assistance and legal representation in applying for U.S. citizenship.  This year, Philadelphia AILA is partnering with the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant and Multicultural Affairs and other numerous community organizations and bar associations to offer Pro Bono Citizenship Day in two sites in Philadelphia and in Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and York counties.  Co-sponsored by more than a dozen local organizations throughout the region, Pro Bono Citizenship Day has broad support in the communities of eastern Pennsylvania. 

“Pro Bono Citizenship Day is an important part of our Administration’s efforts to promote the benefits of citizenship on a year-round basis.  It is estimated that in Philadelphia today, there are 50,000 residents who are eligible to become naturalized citizens, but don’t follow through due to financial or other hardships,” said Mayor Michael A. Nutter.  “Pro Bono Citizenship Day, with the help of local lawyers, law firms, universities, individuals and the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant and Multicultural Affairs, will help Philadelphia’s aspiring citizens to achieve their dream.  I want to thank the American Immigration Lawyers Association and its partners for organizing this exciting opportunity.”
The Pro Bono Citizenship Day lead-up activities begin in mid- March. Immigration attorneys from the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) will present Citizenship Information Sessions at local community organization sites (details provided on following page), and encourage all interested green card holders to attend.   The presenters will explain the U.S. citizenship process and assess an individual’s eligibility for citizenship.  In general, those who have had their “green cards” for 5 years (or 3 years if they are married to U.S. citizens) who can speak, read and write English, are eligible to apply for citizenship.  At the information sessions individuals learn if they meet the eligibility requirements and then schedule an appointment for assistance on Pro Bono Citizenship Day:  Saturday, March 29, 2014.

Pro Bono Citizenship Day will be staffed by volunteer attorneys, legal assistants, interpreters and other community members who have completed AILA-led trainings on the laws and process of obtaining U.S. citizenship. The volunteer teams will guide eligible permanent residents through the application for naturalization and represent them in the process.  Pro Bono Citizenship Day assistance is offered at no cost*, and therefore is aimed at eligible low-income permanent residents who would not otherwise be able to afford legal assistance with the application process. In addition to application assistance, this year we will offer assistance in applying for a waiver of the application fee.

Becoming a U.S. citizen is a win-win for immigrants and the communities they live in.  New citizens gain voting rights, personal and family security, and job opportunities.  In turn, they help keep America strong and vibrant by contributing their voices to the civic dialogue, their efforts and initiatives to growing and innovating our economy, and their dedication to the American ideals of freedom and democracy.  In early May 2014, the naturalization application form required for submission will dramatically change, so all interested applicants are encouraged to attend this year to avoid a lengthier form.

* $10 is requested to cover the cost of certified mailing

Sponsors:  Pro Bono Citizenship Day is a collaborative community-wide project, sponsored by the American Immigration Lawyers Association – Philadelphia Chapter, African Family Health Organization, Asian Pacific American Bar Association-PA, Barrister’s Association of Philadelphia, Brandeis Law Society, Christian Legal Clinics of Philadelphia, Church World Service, Lancaster, Esperanza Immigration Legal Services, HIAS Pennsylvania, Keystone Opportunities Center and the Lansdale Public Library, Mayor’s Office on Immigrant and Multicultural Affairs (MOIMA), Multicultural Community Family Services of Upper Darby, Nationalities Service Center, Pennsylvania Bar Immigration Committee, Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition , Philadelphia VIP, Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center, and the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians. More organizations are joining every day.

Information Sessions:  Citizenship Information Sessions will cover three topics:
1.       Explanation of the U.S. citizenship application process and eligibility criteria
2.       Individual screening for eligibility
3.       Appointment scheduling and review of supporting documents required for March 29

The Citizenship Information Sessions and screenings will be conducted in English.  Interested applicants who need language assistance are asked to bring their own reliable interpreter.

Citizenship Information and Application Assistance Sessions will be held at locations throughout Eastern Pennsylvania:

Chester County                   Monday, March 10, 5:30pm            St. Rocco Center
9016 Gap Newport Pike
Avondale, PA 19311
Return to same site for Citizenship Day, March 29th

Delaware County               Saturday, March 22, 12pm              Multicultural Community Family Services
                                                                                                                7016 Terminal Square
Upper Darby, PA  19082   
Return to same site for Citizenship Day, March 29th
Montgomery County         Tuesday, March 18, 6pm                 Trinity Church*
1000 W. Main Street
Lansdale, PA 19446
*Sponsored by Keystone Opportunity Center
Go to different site for Citizenship Day, March 29th
Lansdale Library
301 Vine St, Lansdale, PA 19446

Philadelphia #1                  Wednesday, March 19, 6pm            Esperanza
                                                                                                                4261 North 5th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19140
Return to same site for Citizenship Day, March 29th              

Philadelphia #2                  Thursday, March 20, 6pm               Nationalities Service Center
                                                                                                                1216 Arch Street, 4th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Return to same site for Citizenship Day, March 29th              

Philadelphia #3                  Sunday, March 23, 1pm                   First Haitian Church of God of Prophecy
                                                                                                                2061 E. Chelten Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19138
Go to different sites for Citizenship Day, March 29th
Nationalities Service Center or Esperanza

York County                        Saturday, March 22, 11am              Martin Library
                                                                                                                159 E. Market Street
York, PA  17401 
Return to same site for Citizenship Day, March 29th


Interested attorneys:   Attorneys from all practice areas are being recruited to offer pro bono service.  Training, CLE credit and on-site support will be provided. Interested attorneys should attend an informational training session, and sign up by contacting:

Lourena Gboeah                                                                                 Michelle Kobler
lgboeah@HIASPA.org                                                       mkobler@klaskolaw.com
215-832-0913* Wed- Friday only                                       215-825-8606
Judith Bernstein-Baker, Esq.