Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) on Wednesday announced two multi-year initiatives to provide immigrants in the borough greater access to free U.S. citizenship and legal services.
The first, a program called Prepare for Citizenship, will provide ESOL learners with formal, 11-week citizenship courses at the Canarsie, Flatbush, Sunset Park and Kensington libraries. Operated in partnership with Catholic Migration Services (CMS) and through a grant from the Department of Homeland Security U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the classes will prepare students for both the English and Civics portion of the Citizenship test and provide free legal assistance. Interested students should sign up to attend a registration session (See bklynlibrary.org and catholicmigration.org).
BPL will simultaneously welcome two new Immigrant Justice Corps (IJC) Community Fellows to help provide critical legal assistance to low-income immigrants throughout the borough. BPL was one of five organizations across New York City to be awarded IJC Community Fellows this year; they will begin formally offering services later this month.
The IJC Fellows will work full-time to counsel low-income immigrants at BPL branches throughout Brooklyn. They will help immigrants file applications for citizenship, DACA, green cards and other benefits and will make referrals to attorneys for more complex cases. The fellows will hold office hours at select branches; schedules and information about services can be found at bklynlibrary.org.
Taken together, these two programs represent a significant new legal and educational support network in Brooklyn for those looking to earn their citizenship to the United States.
"Our city libraries remain an indispensable part of the vitality, and the resiliency of our communities — particularly those made up primarily of low-income and immigrant residents,” said Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, chair of the New York City Council Committee on Immigration.
"Brooklyn Public Library serves a diverse and multiethnic borough and is a critical resource for immigrant communities, which too often face barriers accessing information and assistance," said Linda E. Johnson, president & CEO of Brooklyn Public Library.
“There are nearly are nearly 700,000 immigrants in New York who are one step away from becoming U.S. Citizens, and many of them haven’t done so because of cost, fear of a cumbersome process, or access to legal counsel,” said Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Nisha Agarwal. “Our libraries have long acted as a safe and accessible hub for immigrants. By providing legal services, the Brooklyn Public Library is taking a smart and innovative approach that will benefit not just our immigrant communities, but our city as a whole.”
Brooklyn Public Library offers a variety of services for immigrants and individuals for whom English is a second language year round, including Diversity Visa lottery assistance, advanced business English conversation classes to prepare immigrant professionals for success in the workplace, as well as English conversation groups at 23 libraries.