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June 5, 2014

Seeing a familiar face at a citizenship fair

Very often, as Programs Director, I am approached by outside agencies wanting to partner with SFBFS, very often to gain access to our high volume of clients. I pick and chose these partnerships with great consideration but there are times when I know instantly that the partnership will be successful and a great benefit to our clients. One example of these instantly beneficial partnerships has been with our neighbor in Oak Park, Pacific McGeorge School of Law. 

On an informal basis, one of the immigration attorneys on faculty, Blake Nordhal, had approached the staff at our location in North Sacramento, the Saca Community Learning Center (Saca CLC), and began offering small “Know Your Rights” presentations and then one-on-one quick assessments of their situation. Many of our students became connected with Blake N. and McGeorge and had successful outcomes. One student that comes to mind is Marina, who after attending ESL classes at the Saca CLC for years and having both of her children enrolled in our Youth Education program was able to advance to English classes at the local community college. After getting connected with Blake N. and McGeorge, it was determined that she was eligible to begin the process to be naturalized. As of late 2013, Marina is now a proud US citizen! 

Throughout 2013, SFBFS and McGeorge furthered their partnership at both of SFBFS’ locations by offering Know Your Rights info sessions for both Naturalization and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). After two successful events in fall 2013 with SFBFS, and two others with other partnering agencies, McGeorge had enough applicants ready for the large Citizenship Fair in November 2013. In one day alone they completed 100 applications for DACA and Naturalization, all with the help from law students and dedicated immigration attorneys volunteering their time.

I had the great experience to volunteer my time as an individual on a Saturday in November for this Citizenship Fair. I was assisting some of the law students by translating for the Spanish speaking individuals that were there to complete their applicants. Towards the end of the day, I turned back to the line to get the next individual so I help translate and low and behold it was one of my old clients from the Saca CLC that I had taught English to in 2005 when I was an AmeriCorps member. Maria instantly recognized me and we had a great time catching up at the same time we completed her application. It was such an incredible moment to worked with someone so long ago to improve their English (which was great and I was barely needed for translation), to then years later be sitting with her completing her citizenship application. I saw her a few months ago and she let me know that she was now a citizen and she told me all about the beautiful swearing-in ceremony. 

Submitted by Genevieve Deignan, Programs Director at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services.

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