Hundreds of volunteers gather in Seattle to help residents apply for citizenship
SEATTLE -- For the second year in a row, the City of Seattle put on a a workshop offering free counseling and legal services to help permanent residents apply for citizenship.
Yara Rodriguez arrived at 8 a.m. Saturday and spent at least four hours talking with volunteer counselors and getting her paperwork in order.
But there's no place she'd rather be. After living in Seattle for 11 years, a few hours will change her life.
"I was trying to be a citizen eight years ago, but you know I can do it tomorrow, I can do it tomorrow...but this is the time you have to do it, because if you want to do a big change to this country, you have to do something," Rodriguez said.
She wants to have a vote, a voice in what is now her home, and when she saw on Facebook that the city was putting on the free event, she knew it was time.
"I don't have words to describe how I feel right now, to see all the people helping everybody," Rodriguez said.
Organizers expect a thousand people to receive free help with becoming a U.S. citizen.
Cuc Vu is the director of Seattle's Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs and she said more than half of foreign-born permanent residents are low income.
"So the population we're serving today are folks who mostly cannot afford them," Vu said.
She also said they're more energized than last year after what they've seen.
"That feeling has intensified over the last year because of Trump's unjust immigration policies and we've got a community that's responded in kindness, that we want to protect our neighbors and our colleagues," Vu said.
The event had more than 800 registered volunteers, including 150 immigration attorneys and about 200 non-immigration attorneys and 200 interpreters covering more than 20 languages.
"I can't think of a better reflection of what Seattle is than that," Vu said.
Yara agreed, and already plans to come back next year as a volunteer to help others.
"I'm so thankful, really," she said.