Immigrants applying for naturalization in Massachusetts will be able to get free assistance with their immigration questions and applicants, thanks to a group of volunteers in Brockton. The volunteers include law students, interpreters, attorneys, and others who will be able to answer questions, help fill out immigration forms, screen applicants, and assist with other issues. The volunteer group hopes that their efforts will help with immigrations integration in the state. Volunteers are part of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, which regularly offers a number of events throughout the state in order to help immigrants.
The need for immigration help comes from the fact that the state had 320 000 legal immigrants as of 2010. That year, 180 000 immigrants were eligible for citizenship but had not yet applied to become US citizens. According to experts, naturalization is an important part of the immigration process and it is important for qualified immigrants to apply for citizenship since naturalization allows for more benefits and more complete participation in US life. According to experts, some eligible immigrants do not apply for citizenship because of the high costs or because they have questions or concerns about the process.
For those who do apply for naturalization and become US citizens, the journey can be exciting. Rivka Pe’eri of Swampscott recently became a US citizen, one of only two Israelis in her city to become a US citizen on September 11. Rivka moved to the US in 1995, after getting a degree from Tel Aviv University. She is happy to be a US citizen, stating that it is a “the land of opportunity.” Rivka says that she had a great deal of support during her journey to citizenship. Her students at Cohen Hillel Academy helped her prepare for the citizenship exam by quizzing her. When she became a citizen, her colleagues at work presented her with a cake and flowers.
Rivka’s story reveals a basic fact: many naturalized citizens face a long journey to become US citizens. The journey requires years of residence in many cases as well as careful preparation for the US citizenship test and interview. In addition, many newcomers require some help and support in order to prepare. Rivka was fortunate to have her colleagues and students. For those who do not have a system of support and help, groups such as the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition can help. In addition, there are free online resources, free local citizenship classes, and immigrant advocacy groups designed to help newcomers and citizenship applicants.