By Katie Burke, IIIC Writer
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) was packed with activity on Saturday, February 4th as people from all over the world congregated at the latest Citizenship Clinic to begin their journey toward becoming US citizens. Saturday’s clinic provided free assistance to those ready to make this next step.
For many, beginning the process to citizenship can be overwhelming, but these clinics are geared toward making the process easier for the thousands of eligible immigrants in Massachusetts. Staff and volunteers from sponsoring organizations, including John Rattigan and Neil Hurley from the Irish International Immigrant Center, were available on site to assist with anything from a grammatical glitch on an application to making a referral to a legal attorney. There was also the lure of a raffle prize of money toward two naturalization applications and a $500 grocery gift card.
Many local immigrants are jumping at the chance to have access to these free services. Saturday’s event brought in over 200 people, and there are additional clinics scheduled monthly through June. As one event participant put it, “I think it is very useful for all immigrants because events like this open a huge door. There are many immigrants that want their citizenship but they don’t know how to start. This event is the door opened.”
It was clear to many that walking through this “open door” is just the beginning. Sarang Sekhavat, federal policy director at the MIRA Coalition, discussed how in many ways, obtaining citizenship leads to greater civic engagement for immigrants in their surroundings. “We are hoping people can have more opportunities to improve their own lives and have a greater voice in what happens in their lives and communities,” said Sekhavat.
As part of a new initiative from The Fish Family Foundation and the MIRA Coalition, Saturday’s event worked in collaboration with 6 other organizations serving immigrants in the Boston area. It was the third of a continuing series, with the next clinic being held on Saturday, March 3rd at the Notre Dame Education Center in South Boston.
If you are interested in registering for the event, please call 617-65-READY or visit miracoalition.org. If you are interested in volunteering at the event, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.