Northampton to mark Citizenship Day with Forbes Library event

  • Lenin Barreras of Springfield looks over his certificate of citizenship in Northampton in 2015. Northampton is hosting a Citizenship Day on Saturday to encourage eligible immigrants to apply for citizenship. Gazette file photo

For the Gazette
Published: 9/14/2017 5:36:36 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The city will encourage eligible immigrants to apply for citizenship this Saturday in celebration of “Citizenship Day.”

The event marks Northampton’s participation in Naturalize NOW, a national campaign aiming to embolden 1 million immigrants to apply for citizenship in 2017. Mayor David Narkewicz, who initiated the event, will participate in a panel discussion along with the Center for New Americans, the Northampton chapter of the League of Women Voters and a newly naturalized citizen.

The event will begin at 10 a.m. at the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library and Museum at Forbes Library on West Street, and will wrap up around 12 p.m. Lisa Downing, director of the Forbes Library, will moderate the discussion.

“Northampton has a long tradition of welcoming immigrants and celebrating citizenship,” Narkewicz said in a statement announcing the event. “Anyone who has witnessed the moving July Fourth naturalization ceremony, organized by the Center for New Americans and held every year on the grounds of the Hampshire County Courthouse, knows how many diverse traditions enrich our city, and how our city embraces new citizens.”

The Center for New Americans, which facilitated 51 immigrants taking an oath of citizenship at the July Fourth ceremony, provides free services to immigrants wishing to attain citizenship.

The organization helps immigrants navigate the application process, explaining what documents they need to collect, helping them fill out the paperwork and then matching applicants with a tutor who helps with preparation for the citizenship interview.

The Center for New Americans also hosts free English classes, and has offices in Amherst, Northampton, Greenfield and Turners Falls. The nonprofit organization will attend the ceremony Saturday to educate the public on the process it admits can be “daunting.”

The League of Women Voters has actively helped new citizens register to vote, participating in the July Fourth ceremony each year. Yvonne Freccero, a volunteer with the League’s Northampton chapter, noted that the ability to vote is a driving factor in the decision to apply for citizenship.

Naturalize NOW is a nonpartisan campaign featuring events led by members of Congress, mayors’ offices, labor unions and communities across the country. They claim 8.8 million people are eligible for U.S. citizenship but haven’t yet applied, and that 3.7 million of them could apply for free or at a reduced cost, due to fee waivers. Thirty cities, including Boston, are Naturalize NOW participants.

The official “Citizenship Day” falls a day later than Saturday’s event at Forbes Library and marks the anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution.


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