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As Immigrant Fears Rise, Rush to Citizenship Under Way

Citizenship clinics are drawing large crowds as many immigrants fear for their future. (FL Immigrant Coalition)
Citizenship clinics are drawing large crowds as many immigrants fear for their future. (FL Immigrant Coalition)
February 13, 2017

LAUDERHILL, Fla. – With executive orders and deportation raids dominating the news, many immigrants now are taking steps to ensure they won't be separated from their families and lives.

Yva Darbouze was among the more than 400 people who turned out for a free citizenship clinic and workshop near Fort Lauderdale aimed at helping immigrants know their rights and better understand the process.

The Haitian immigrant has been a permanent resident for decades, and says for the first time she fears being separated from her loved ones.

"I have family here, I have my kids are here,” she points out. “They were born here. So I'm afraid that even though I'm a permanent resident, but I'm still afraid that they might send me back."

Experts say on average, less than 10 percent of those eligible for citizenship actually apply, many citing the cost and complexity of the process.

Those who attended the workshop were able to connect with pro bono attorneys and, in some cases, have their citizenship fees waived.

Darbouze says she does believe that citizenship will give her a more powerful voice in her community and expand her employment opportunities. However, she says right now, fear is the main motivating factor.

"I've been here for over 30 years so I never thought about going through this process,” she explains. “My families are important to me and I don't want to be separated from my family. "

The current fee for a naturalization application, the process by which a permanent legal resident becomes a U.S. citizen, is $725. However, there are waivers available for those who meet federal income guidelines.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - FL