BOSTON (CBS) — The City of Boston hosted the sixth annual Citizenship Day Saturday, where volunteers helped eligible permanent residents fill out paperwork to apply for naturalization.
Hundreds of trained volunteer attorneys, law students and community members gathered at the Reggie Lewis Athletic Center to help hundreds of would-be citizens.
“I’m applying for citizenship because I love my country. I love this country,” said applicant Katianna Dooce.
It is the largest citizenship workshop in New England and is organized in collaboration with Project Citizenship.
“What’s amazing about this thing is that in eight to ten months they’re going to be able to vote,” said Yusufi Vali, a volunteer at the event. “What it means is they’re gonna be active, civic citizens in this incredible project of America which is democracy.”
In the past five years, more than 1,400 eligible applicants have applied for citizenship at the event. The event started in 2013 to provide legal help to immigrants who might be overwhelmed by the complexity of the application process.
“Everyone deserves the right to the American dream, whatever that means for them,” said volunteer and Boston University graduate student Ashley Welch.
Of Boston’s 700,000 residents, 28% are foreign-born. Mayor Marty Walsh said many immigrants are scared by the current tone coming from Washington. His parents immigrated from Ireland.
“My mother and father were both immigrants,” Walsh said. “My mother became a citizen in the 90s. My father became a citizen in the 50s when he came here. So it’s very personal.”
Walsh said citizenship not only comes with certain rights and benefits, but also encourages more civic engagement from immigrants like voting.