Answering a Citywide Need

July 8, 2012 | CUNY Matters, The University

Annual Citizenship Now! Hotline recently helped its 100,000th caller — and thousands more.

An immigrant from the Dominican Republic, whose “green card” entitles her to live and work here permanently, learned via the 10th annual Citizenship NOW! Call-In that this year she could realize her biggest dream: to become a U.S. citizen in time to vote in the 2012 presidential election.

LENDING SUPPORT at the 2012 Citizenship NOW! Call-In are, from left: New York City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez; State Sen. Adriano Espaillat; Daily News Publisher Mortimer B. Zuckerman; U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand; State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver; U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. At far right is Baruch College professor/Citizenship NOW! director Allan Wernick. In front of him, proudly holding her U.S. voter-registration approval notice, is Panama native Emma Dyer, whose call to last year’s hotline started her on the road to American citizenship.

Her call to the hotline, made the second day of this year’s recent five-day campaign, was the 100,000th logged during the first decade of the free service for immigrants, co-sponsored by CUNY and the Daily News. The record-setting call was answered by one of the many immigrants among the volunteer counselors.

The veritable parade of officials stopping by the helpline center, set up in CUNY’s New Community College, included New York Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Secretary of State Cesar Perales, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, University Chancellor Matthew Goldstein, Senior Vice Chancellor Jay Hershenson and Daily News chairman and publisher Mortimer B. Zuckerman.

Some notables who dropped by also answered a call or two before turning questions over to the counselors trained to help immigrants in numerous languages. Complex questions were referred to legal practitioners also on hand.

A record 12,571 calls were answered during this year’s Citizenship Now! campaign — a total of 109,873 over the decade of the program, which is directed by Baruch College law professor Allan Wernick. “There are an estimated 11.5 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., with some 800,000 in the New York area,” said Wernick. “Access to free immigration and citizenship information and assistance is greatly needed for the thousands of immigrants that arrive in the city every year, which is evident in the success of this program.”

Other distinguished speakers noted CUNY and New York’s long history of welcoming immigrants, who have made many contributions to the city, state and nation.