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Immigration workshop on City College campus helps many

Immigration+Workshop+volunteers+%28left%29+Susan+Jang+and+Steve+Ravel+help+attendees+fill+out+citizenship+applications+in+the+SJCC+gym%2C+Saturday+April+22.%0A
Immigration Workshop volunteers (left) Susan Jang and Steve Ravel help attendees fill out citizenship applications in the SJCC gym, Saturday April 22.

Immigration Workshop volunteers (left) Susan Jang and Steve Ravel help attendees fill out citizenship applications in the SJCC gym, Saturday April 22.

Immigration Workshop volunteers (left) Susan Jang and Steve Ravel help attendees fill out citizenship applications in the SJCC gym, Saturday April 22.

Jordan Elliott, Times Staff

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San Jose City College hosted a “Citizenship Workshop” in the campus gym to assist immigrants with their citizenship applications on Saturday April 22. The New American Campaign Coalition, various nonprofits and volunteers provided their time and expertise to attendees.

The free event was open for students and anyone in the community to receive legal advice, answers to questions and help filling out the application. A major benefit to attending campus workshops such as this is because the usually $750 application can be half-price or discounted depending on the applicant’s financial situation.

“Usually at least half of them we are able to help,” said staff attorney Jessica Jenkins. “We try to give them as much info as possible.”

The workshop was the second one to occur on the campus and is an annual event at City College. These events also occur on other sites and many of the involved law groups also provide advice about the application to immigrants. For example, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services gives sessions and mock interviews at public libraries to provide further assistance.

“We tell you about the risk for applying for citizenship,” said Nick Kuwada, a pre-screener with Asian Law Alliance. “We help you fill out the application, then it’s up to you to mail it in.”

A major benefit for attending such events is the opportunity to receive a discounted application. Pre-screening attorneys such as Kuwada determine if applicants can qualify for a reduced price. Screeners give a separate I-912 form to applicants they consider low-income and determine if they are eligible for a half-price discount, or a reduced fee.

Many volunteers and law group representatives said that some reasons people are afraid to apply in the first place is cost and misinformation about the test, “That’s where most people fail,” USCIS Community Relations Nina Sachdev said. “They need to study the application, not just U.S. history.”

“A lot of people don’t know that they can’t apply for citizenship without giving up citizenship in their own country,” Kuwada said.

150 registered volunteers for the 450 registered applicants were expected to ensure that the 4-hour workshop could assist all attendees. Services, Immigrant Rights and Education Network is an organization which caters to immigrant rights, and also holds similar events expected to occur in off-campus locations in the fall.

“If they have all the requirements today they can mail it in, otherwise the steps are explained to them,” said Veronica Carillo, volunteer from Center for Employment Training. “We do it to help the community.”

Volunteers were present to provide guidance and were required to have a 2-hour training session before the workshop date, plus a refresher session the morning of the event. Staff members were there to provide information relating to their fields of expertise.

“We provide services about how they can study, interview and complete the process,” Sachdev said, as the USCIS is the company that ultimately receives applications and interviews applicants.

SIREN volunteer Jocelynne Leon said that applicants who know conversational English before attending such an event have a much better chance of completing their application. However, the gym was split into separate sections: the left side was for English speakers and the right side was for Spanish, Vietnamese and other languages.

“There are a lot of people who want to help,” volunteer Steve Ravel said. “I would encourage anyone who has questions to come to an event like this.”

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Seeking citizenship