Hotline to help immigrants

Anyone familiar with the immigration process knows that it is complicated, long and often expensive. But help is on the way for immigrant New Yorkers.

For the sixth consecutive year The New York Daily News and the City University of New York (CUNY) will offer Citizenship Now!, a week-long immigration hotline from Monday, April 27 to Friday, May 1, between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. to address the systemic lack of access to free immigration information for the people who need it most. And with immigration reform a priority for the Obama administration, staying up-to-date with changes in policy could make all of the difference in how fast an application is processed.

“Immigration has become one of the most important issues on the political scene,” said Allan Wernick, an attorney and Chair of CUNY’s Citizenship and Immigration project. Wernick is also a professor of law at Baruch College.

“In the current economic environment, the need for immigration and citizenship application information and assistance is great and growing, despite existing federal and state resources for these services.”

According to Wernick, each year some 100,000 permanent residents settle in the city and approximately the same number qualify for naturalization annually. This leaves many New Yorkers stuck in the naturalization process for years as they wait for their turn to qualify. In addition, about 10 percent of New Yorkers, some 800,000 people, are undocumented compared to an estimated 11.5 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

Citizenship Now!, believed to be the largest program of its kind in the nation, was co-launched by The Daily News and CUNY in April 2004. Since its inception, the program has helped over 55,000 people.

Callers can expect nearly 400 knowledgeable experts available by telephone, who will answer in English and Spanish. However, nearly 20 additional languages including Mandarin or Cantonese, Korean, Italian, Haitian Creole and Russian, will also available throughout the week.

The expert volunteers come from the CUNY School of Law, the Legal Aid Society, the New York Immigration Coalition, the CUNY Immigration Centers and the 20 CUNY campuses, and many other community-based organizations and elected officials offices.

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