Pro Bono Net would like to recognize the thousands of volunteer lawyers who make a huge difference for those in need and the incredibly important work of pro bono volunteers in building our capacity to meet the vast unmet need for civil legal services. This year we are celebrating National Pro Bono Week through a special Volunteering Through Technology Initiative, which features someone who volunteers though one of Pro Bono Net’s innovative legal tech solutions on our Connecting Justice Communities blog. We are very proud to showcase these volunteers from our pro bono community and hope they may inspire you to get involved as well! Today we would like to highlight the volunteers of our Citizenshipworks Brooklyn Public Library – Central Branch Clinics. Special thanks to Sandra Sandoval, Immigration Advocates Network’s Citizenshipworks Program Manager, for the article!
Since 2013, the Immigration Advocates Network (IAN), in partnership with New York’s Brooklyn Public Library – Central Branch, has teamed up with non-profit legal service providers around New York City to host a free, monthly citizenship application assistance workshops using the innovative Citizenshipworks platform.
Each month, partners like CUNY CitizenshipNow!, Catholic Migration Services, International Rescue Committee – New York, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, Make the Road New York, and NALEO Education Fund provide the legal support needed via pro bono volunteers to ensure that lawful permanent residents applying for citizenship have access to free, quality legal services.
With the upcoming election there has been a sharp increase of people interested in applying for citizenship in the last year. Waiting times for appointments at nonprofit organizations in New York can be weeks or even months, leaving many people struggling to find help. These workshops give people in Brooklyn and the surrounding boroughs the opportunity to receive a free, quality service to help them file their form.
Others sometimes just need a push to get the ball rolling. One such individual made the decision to apply for citizenship after passing by the Info Commons at the Library and noticing the workshop in progress. She registered for the very next event to complete her form. A couple of months later, she came back and thanked the volunteers at the workshop for having helped her and is currently waiting to take the Oath to become a citizen. She also brought a friend to the clinic to begin the process!
Through this innovative partnership, applicants are able to use the Citizenshipworks system to complete their N-400 and then connect with the legal service provider partners hosting the event at the library to receive a free, legal consultation. As the workshop series continues, the number of applicants has continuously grown, with Summer 2016 averaging 20 potential applicants receiving application assistance to file their Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, and I-912, Request for Fee Waiver form (when applicable).
A couple of months later, she came back and thanked the volunteers at the workshop for having helped her and is currently waiting to take the Oath to become a citizen.
To begin the process, lawful permanent residents interested in applying for citizenship register for the event through Citizenshipworks. Citizenshipworks walks the applicant through every question of the N-400 and connects them to the non-profit legal service provider prior to the event. The partner’s pro bono attorneys are able to review the applicants’ forms beforehand (checking for any potential legal issues) and help the applicant prepare for their final review the day of the event. At the event, the applicant will meet with the volunteer or BIA representative from the partner organization to complete a final review of their form before filing.
This partnership has allowed non-profit legal service providers to connect with more applicants while continuing to provide quality assistance at no cost to the applicant. Additionally, the partnership has ventured into using more innovative models to reach more applicants needing assistance.
Through the Citizenshipworks Virtual Review features and the technology provided by the library, the partner’s legal service providers and volunteer attorneys who are unable to assist in person can review the applicants form and provide a legal consultation by connecting with applicants virtually. This model has expanded not only the reach of the partnering organization, but has begun to change how legal assistance can be provided.
The naturalization process can be daunting, but through the easy process of the Citizenshipworks platform, along with legal volunteers to help with questions and complications, becoming a citizen is easier and simpler than ever before.
The volunteers at these workshops are absolutely crucial to applicants by providing much needed legal services. The naturalization process can be daunting, but through the easy process of the Citizenshipworks platform, along with legal volunteers to help with questions and complications, becoming a citizen is easier and simpler than ever before.
With the continued support of non-profit legal service providers and pro bono attorneys, the workshop provides access to legal services that otherwise would not be as readily available for many of the applicants. The volunteers at these clinics provide crucial services for immigrants in need, helping them through the naturalization process.
Non-profit legal service providers or pro bono attorney interested in joining this innovative partnership, should contact Sandra Sandoval, Citizenshipworks Program Manager, at email@example.com for more information.
Citizenshipworks provides easy-to-use online tools to help low and moderate-income individuals to answer important questions about their eligibility for naturalization, to better understand the naturalization process, and to prepare for the naturalization tests. Citizenshipworks is a collaboration between the Immigration Advocates Network, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, and Pro Bono Net. We aim to make the immigration system accessible everyone through user-friendly technology, plain language legal information, and a national network of nonprofit immigration service providers.
The Immigration Advocates Network (IAN) is a collaborative effort of leading immigrants’ rights organizations designed to increase access to justice for low-income immigrants and strengthen the capacity of organizations serving them. IAN promotes more effective and efficient communication, collaboration, and services among immigration advocates and organizations by providing free, easily accessible and comprehensive online resources and tools.