Volunteering at Citizenship Day

Erick Widman

This past weekend, attorneys and staff from Passage Immigration Law participated in Lutheran Community Service’s annual Citizenship Day. This event provides a free clinic and legal services for Lawful Permanent Residents who are hoping to file Naturalization applications to become US Citizens. This event is part of LCS’s free Citizenship Program which offers classes, resources, and legal services free of charge for immigrants and refugees in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.

Many of the individuals who attended Citizenship Day and who attend LCS’s classes originally entered the US as refugees. Others entered the US as visitors, students, or workers and later became married to US citizens and started families or sought asylum in the US due to issues in their home country. Through all of these types of admission, individuals have the ability to adjust their status to become Lawful Permanent Residents after a certain amount of time and by meeting certain criteria. After five years (or three years if married to a US citizen), Lawful Permanent Residents become eligible to file for citizenship.

During the free clinic on Saturday, our staff helped families from all over the world and from different backgrounds complete their Naturalization applications, which included screening them for eligibility, asking detailed questions about their background and history, collecting and copying their official documents, and filling out their N-400 form to be submitted to USCIS.

Erick, Amanda, Ahmed, and Alison worked with families from Burma, Sudan, Uzbekistan, Mexico, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Brazil. Among them, we met individuals who worked as reflexologists, ski instructors, and boot makers, as well as veterans of several different wars. We helped single individuals as well as families of seven or eight. Some individuals spoke only their native language, while others spoke up to five different languages, including English.

Portland is fortunate to have many non-profits doing great work for refugees and immigrants and it is always meaningful and rewarding to be involved in their programs. LCS is a great resource for immigrants and refugees, particularly those who are learning English and studying for their citizenship tests. We are honored to contribute to the mission of Lutheran Community Services, Catholic Charities, IRCO, and other great organizations in the Portland area.

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