Seattle citizenship clinic pushes back against “Second Wall”

Liliana Caracoza takes the oath of citizenship at a ceremony in Tacoma in September 2014. (Photo by Alex Stonehill)
Liliana Caracoza takes the oath of citizenship at a ceremony in Tacoma in September 2014. (Photo by Alex Stonehill)

A citizenship clinic — one in a series being offered monthly by the City of Seattle’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs (OIRA) and Seattle Parks and Recreation — will be held this Saturday, March 23 at the Meadowbrook Community Center.

The OIRA and Seattle Parks and Recreation have been holding monthly citizenship workshops and clinics for immigrants and refugees who need help on their journey to becoming U.S. citizens.

Attorneys, translators and other volunteers work with green card holders and help them complete their N-400 naturalization application forms. The clinics are located specifically in North and West Seattle because citizenship services in those areas seem to be more scarce, according to a city of Seattle press release.

At the first clinic in February, 23 attendees filled out their citizenship applications and got themselves one step closer to becoming citizens.

Workshop and clinic participants are also provided with information on loans they can use to pay application or processing fees.

The citizenship clinics were launched in 2017 by the city of Seattle’s New Citizen Campaign (NCC), an initiative to get more lawful permanent residents naturalized in the Seattle-King County area.

But the latest efforts are also a part of the national “Second Wall” campaign, according to the city of Seattle.

For almost 80,000 green card holders in Seattle, the “second wall” standing in their way of becoming U.S. citizens is the time it has taken for their applications to get processed.

Immigrants and refugees are currently looking at a wait time of over 20 months. It used to take four or five months. The campaign’s goal is to reduce the wait time down to six months or less.

The campaign was started last July by the National Partnership for New Americans. The campaign calls out the increasing number of naturalization applications that are being backlogged.

In the past, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has excused the delay in processing on technical issues or lack of funds for staffing. But Mallori Thompson, the grants and integration manager for OneAmerica’s Washington New Americans program, told the Seattle Globalist last October that lack of funds should no longer be an issue. Last year, 750,000 applicants paid the $750 application fee.

“Today’s immigrants are tomorrow’s American citizens who should have the chance to contribute to the economic, cultural, and civic life of Seattle – and our nation,” said Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan, in the news release from OIRA and Seattle Parks and Recreation. “The City of Seattle’s citizenship clinics are an important opportunity to help our immigrant communities overcome the Trump administration’s so-called ‘Second Wall’ of bureaucratic barriers to citizenship.”

This Saturday’s clinic, located at the Meadowbrook Community Center, 10517 35th Ave. NE, will open at 10 a.m.

For more clinic dates and locations, you can visit their website to stay up to date with the schedule.