Authored by Irina Golovanich
Some good news, everyone!
Last month, after waiting for twelve years, Leidys Hernandez became a US. citizen. While her oath ceremony came after over a year of waiting and amid a global pandemic, that did not diminish the importance or the joy of the moment for Leidys or her family. The IRC’s immigration legal services (ILS) program, which assisted Leidys with her citizenship application, also rejoiced to receive the good news. Few immigration applications have been processed by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) since it re-opened for business in early June after having shut down during the height of the pandemic. The shutdown of USCIS, coupled with the IRC’s services going mostly virtual since March 23, has been a challenge to both clients and the ILS team. Clients became anxious and worried of not being able to apply for critical immigration benefits in a timely manner and IRC staff had to work additional hours to ensure critical services were provided remotely and punctually.
Leidys arrived in the United States as a legal permanent resident in May of 2008. Leidys’ husband, already living in the US, had filed a family petition through USCIS years prior to reunite with his wife. That application took many years to be approved and Leidys had become intimately familiar with the long and painful process of waiting to be reunited with her husband.
Leidys had lived in the U.S. for 12 years before making an appointment to meet with the IRC in August of 2019. The ILS staff had the pleasure of meeting Leidys during a citizenship workshop put on by the New American Workforce (NAW) and the city of D.C. NAW is a consortium of organizations that seeks to work with businesses to assist their eligible immigrant employees with the U.S. citizenship process, so they become more valuable workers and full participants in the workplace, community and economy. More information on NAW can be found here and IRC's collaboration with NAW, here.
Leidys had learned about the NAW citizenship workshop through her mother who was taking citizenship classes at a local community organization. She signed up for the workshop and was introduced to the IRC’s immigration team during the August 2019 workshop. The team has worked with Leidys to file her citizenship application and provided legal representation for her throughout the process.
It took almost a year for Leidys to receive her interview notice from USCIS. The IRC prepared her for the interview by quizzing her on the civics and history portions of the test as well as coaching her on what to expect during the interview process. One of the main reasons Leidys waited for twelve years since her arrival in the U.S. to apply for citizenship was because she wanted to keep improving her English. She studied, she practiced, and on the day of her citizenship interview, she aced the test!
Since becoming a U.S. citizen, Leidys stated that she is most excited about applying for better job opportunities that will now be available to her. She also cannot wait to exercise her right to vote in the upcoming election and to travel freely using a U.S. passport. Leidys, like so many immigrants, has achieved something a lot of native-born citizens take for granted – gaining the protections of this country as well as the rights we get to exercise every day. The IRC is very proud of Leidys and wishes her and her family continued success.