April 9, 2011 | Participant Stories

Citizenship NOW! 2011: She made the call and it changed 2 lives

This article was written by New York Daily News reporter Erica Pearson and appeared on the New York Daily News on April 20, 2011.

Diana Zambrano and her son

A simple phone call can change an entire immigrant family’s life.

Just ask Diana Zambrano.

The Flushing cosmetician called the Daily News-CUNY Citizenship NOW! hotline two years ago and became a citizen just in the nick of time to sponsor her son Sergio back in Colombia. “Because of the help that they gave me, I was able to bring [my son],” said Zambrano, 48. “Really, it was fast.”

This month, organizers of the Daily News and CUNY Citizenship NOW! call-in service – which is running from April 25-29 – hope to hit a grand total of 100,000 immigrants helped through the years. As it stands now, they’ve already helped nearly 85,000 people navigate the confusing waters of immigration. For the eighth year in a row, an army of more than 400 volunteers – including lawyers and paralegals – will give information to callers who have confidential citizenship and immigration questions.

“It’s all about transforming lives,” said City University of New York Senior Vice Chancellor Jay Hershenson, who said that the service is even more important this year after New York City’s apparent census undercount and no action on immigration in Congress.

“When we help one immigrant in distress, we’re helping an entire family,” Hershenson said.

CUNY Citizenship NOW! Director Allan Wernick said he expects more immigrants to reach out this year. “The immigrant community needs us more than they ever have,” he said.

Zambrano had been a permanent resident for five years before she made the call to the Daily News-CUNY Citizenship NOW! hotline and spoke to a Spanish-speaking volunteer, who referred her to CUNY’s Citizenship NOW! immigration center in Flushing, Queens.

There, staffers helped her with paperwork and told her that once she was a citizen, she could sponsor her son before he turned 21.

She was able to do so right before his 21st birthday and he has now been here for three months, she said, beaming. Sergio Zambrano, who plays both piano and guitar, is now learning English and hopes to study music here in New York. “Finally, I achieved my goals – my citizenship and my son,” Diana Zambrano said. “I think this way I can help more. Because he comes here legally.”

Citizenship NOW! is also supported by media partner Univision and a host of sponsors: the New York chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the Bureau of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance, Gristedes and radio station 1290 AM WADO.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]