On the Path to Citizenship

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Natz Day Volunteers

On August 20, the Clinic held a 1-day event known as Naturalization Day. Hosted by Washington Township at Northview Middle School, volunteers and Clinic staff served 62 individual clients on the path to citizenship. According to Immigrant Justice Program Manager Brandon Fitzsimmons, tackling such a process in a single day is beneficial to everyone involved, with a higher volume of clients served in a much shorter timeframe. “We’re looking at 2 possibly 3 months of meetings, revisions, signings—everything truncated,” he says. “[Naturalization Day] is a benefit to the client and it also allows us to be more efficient with our own production.”

Of course, organizing such an event is not simple. It requires a concerted effort on the front end, including identifying and screening potential clients to make sure they are eligible for naturalization, as well as securing a team of committed volunteer attorneys, paralegals, law students, and interpreters to assist with the process. Volunteer Coordinator Kathleen Bloxsome says each volunteer constitutes a vital part of the day. Particularly helpful in the planning stages and execution of the event was a summer intern named Julia Klynstra. In preparation, she drove to nearly 100 different local shops to post fliers that instructed potential clients to call and register with Brandon. “That child—she was amazing,” Kathleen says. She feels blessed to see all her volunteers, like Julia, not just ready to serve, but excited to serve. “It’s like all that work comes to fruition and we’ve actually accomplished something fantastic for all these clients, and these volunteers feel really fulfilled.”

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Natz Day Clients & Volunteers

In addition to the Clinic’s services being free, everyone involved is devoted to maintaining the highest standard possible. Brandon says of the clients, “When you’re relatively down-and-out and low on resources, you come to expect the bare minimum. So we really try to make sure that they’re not getting the bare minimum.” For Kathleen, this means making the event as convenient and as comfortable as she can for everyone involved. She points out that the event takes place on a Saturday to make it more accessible. “If [clients] work full-time, they don’t have to miss work,” she says. “We provide them with snacks and water bottles. We have activities for children if families bring kiddos.” And thanks to the spacious accommodations provided by Washington Township, Brandon and Kathleen were able to stage various classrooms for attorney-client meetings, as well as for check-in, a volunteer lounge, and a kids’ area.

For Brandon, events like Naturalization Day give him an opportunity to meet clients face-to-face and to hear their stories. “There are few better opportunities to broaden your appreciation for life and the immensity and mystery and beauty of the world than coming and serving and working alongside immigrants from every corner of the globe,” he says. “It will make you feel very small, but at the same time make life seem very big and very exciting and even glorious.”

If you’re interested in learning more about our 1-day immigration events, please contact Brandon Fitzsimmons at bfitzsimmons@nclegalclinic.org. If you’re interested in learning more about volunteering for the Clinic, please visit our website.