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Hundreds line up to apply for citizenship

Mega Event hosted by Catholic Legal Services is part of New Americans Campaign

MIAMI | Early on a Saturday morning, beneath an American flag languidly hanging from the ceiling of the courtyard at Miami Dade College’s InterAmerican Campus in Little Havana, hundreds of immigrants hoping to gain American citizenship patiently stood in a serpentine line, waiting for assistance from the 2018 Mega Event.

The Mega Event is a campaign designed to provide information and assistance to persons aspiring to become citizens during a time when immigrant communities are becoming fearful about their chances.

Martina Guillen, right, poses with her godmother Claudia Garzon. Guillen, who is originally from the Dominican Republic, was convinced by her godmother, a native of Colombia who became a U.S. citizen years ago. The two saw a commercial for the New Americans Campaign Mega Citizenship Workshop and knew it was time for action.

Photographer: CRISTINA CABRERA JARRO| FC

Martina Guillen, right, poses with her godmother Claudia Garzon. Guillen, who is originally from the Dominican Republic, was convinced by her godmother, a native of Colombia who became a U.S. citizen years ago. The two saw a commercial for the New Americans Campaign Mega Citizenship Workshop and knew it was time for action.

Albert Miranda, a volunteer at the New Americans Campaign Mega Citizenship Workshop and Miami Dade College student, assists Concepcion Mendoza De Obando from Nicaragua with her the citizenship application.

Photographer: CRISTINA CABRERA JARRO| FC

Albert Miranda, a volunteer at the New Americans Campaign Mega Citizenship Workshop and Miami Dade College student, assists Concepcion Mendoza De Obando from Nicaragua with her the citizenship application.

“The fear is palpable. There is no doubt about it,” said Ana Quiros, managing attorney of Catholic Legal Services of the Archdiocese of Miami, which organized the event in partnership with other local agencies and the nationwide New Americans Campaign. “Fear is mostly feeling out of control.”

The Mega Event, held Feb. 10, was created to provide hope along with the assistance. Workers from Catholic Legal Services and the other agencies, along with volunteers, worked long into the afternoon assisting as many people as they could. More than 525 people had registered in advance for the Mega Event. Many more who attended had not pre-registered.

Those who could not be assisted or did not have the documentation they needed were directed to a website where they could register to receive assistance and the appropriate follow-up services.

“My husband wanted to try to keep his Bahamian citizenship,” said Minose George, of Fort Lauderdale, about her husband Davidson, who was working with a counselor as she spoke. “I’ve been on his butt about becoming a citizen, telling him someday it will become an issue. Now someday’s here but so far, the process is going well.”

Miriam Patricia Gonzalez, of Mexico, stood in line with her husband Miguel Angel, son Miguel Angel Jr. and daughter Marly, to help ease the waiting. Miriam was the last of her family needing to become a citizen. Her husband and their children already are.

“Both of our children were born here,” she said.

The week before, Martina Guillen, who came to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic, was watching her favorite telenovela on Univision with her godmother, Claudia Garzon, when they saw a public service announcement for the event. Garzon told Guillen: “That’s your chance.”

The two women stood in line, waiting for Guillen to be served. “You have to be patient,” Guillen said. “But the line is moving.”

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