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Helping immigrants and refugees become U.S. citizens

Last updated 
Photo: Irina Golovanich/IRC

Forming a partnership

The IRC’s immigration legal services team in Silver Spring have been conducting citizenship workshops in Washington, DC for the better part of 2019. The team formed a partnership with the New Immigration Forum (NIF) and the New American Workforce (NAW) to conduct citizenship workshops and help eligible permanent residents become United States citizens. The workshops were organized by NAW with the help of the city government and Mayor Muriel Bowser, who set up a citizenship fund to pay the USCIS filing fees for eligible DC residents. Immigration legal services manager, Rachel Mogga, senior immigration specialist, Irina Golovanich, and a team of wonderful interns supported 70 clients with filling out required forms, helping them understand the citizenship process, and providing critical legal representation.

Build-a-workshop

Holding a successful citizenship workshop was a lot of work! The New American Workforce conducted outreach and screening of eligible citizenship clients, identified meeting spaces in DC government buildings, and prepared individual checks to pay USCIS fees for clients. The workshops were held in various government buildings all around DC. The IRC Silver Spring immigration team facilitated informational sessions to new clients who were planning to apply for citizenship. Rachel, Irina, and their interns then met with clients one-on-one and assisted them while discussing what clients could expect while they waited. The forms were then prepared by the team and reviewed by Rachel. Clients received updates on their case status and came into the office to prepare for their interview with Rachel prior to their citizenship interview with USCIS.

Importance and impact

Becoming a citizen is now more important than ever. Citizenship provides multiple benefits, such as the right to vote, the ability to travel freely, secure government jobs, and to bring family to the United States. It also provides peace of mind, alleviating fears about immigration status or deportation. The collaboration between the IRC and NIF, NAW, and the city of DC has helped over 70 people become U.S. citizens. Many of them waited decades to go through this process, citing the inability to pay the USCIS fee as one of the main hurdles to completing the process. The citizenship workshops provided much-needed support to residents and allowed them to put down stronger roots in this country as citizens.

Looking ahead

Rachel, Irina, and the team conducted their last in-person workshop on February 11, 2020. The partnership between NIF, NAW and the IRC is still going strong and the work will continue. Later this year, NAW will implement a virtual application and review process for eligible citizenship clients, hoping to streamline the process and reach more people. The Silver Spring immigration legal services team will provide legal representation, review, and interview preparation just as before and will be available to meet clients in person. The IRC team is currently getting good practice with virtual work in the light of the COVID-19 crisis and is looking forward to helping more people become U.S. citizens.


Interested in volunteering with the IRC? Sign up here to attend a Volunteer Orientation. Email Kyle Monsees, our Volunteer Coordinator, at Kyle.Monsees [at] rescue.org (subject: Volunteer%20Inquiry) with any questions on volunteering with the IRC in Silver Spring.

Authored by Irina Golovanich