The Catholic Migration Services (CMS) office in Sunnyside Queens offers a variety of services to immigrants in the community who often respond with tears, some of joy and some of anguish. The livelihood for many of these people is fickle as the laws frequently change, the stigma against immigration grows, and their options are often limited. Despite those difficulties, our services at CMS can at least ease the burden that they regularly experience. Our clients often come in with looks of despair and sometimes begging for help. It makes me happy to know that we exist as a free service to help them with seemingly insurmountable problems. The ability to provide assistance to these immigrants has been incredibly life-giving as I can see the real and human emotions that migrants have.
The process I go through with each individual client is arduous and lasts for months. I work primarily with immigrants applying for citizenship and the required steps to become a citizen alone can be tough. They often have to collect a number of documents, talk about sensitive aspects of their past, and spend several hours with me before the application can even be reviewed by a lawyer. From the date the application is sent out, they then have to study a comprehensive set of civics-based exam questions, improve their English, and conduct an extensive interview with immigration. After they have taken the oath and receive their certificate of naturalization, my clients call me so happy to know they are now full-fledged members of society who will never face the risk of being pulled away from their families or forced to pay fees to renew their green cards.
At CMS, I have tried to find a way to maximize those tears of happiness and be a resource that helps provide assistance towards a better life. Seeing the joy on the faces of my clients who feel so relieved that everything will be alright after we tell them that we can take their case puts my life into perspective. I will never experience the uncertainty that they face on a daily basis and it has helped me learn the challenges of what people face in the pursuit of providing a better life for themselves and their family.
This is an especially exciting time for me because the first clients I helped back in August will be partaking in their oath ceremony. I will have officially seen the entire process that a person applying for citizenship must go through and I have been helping and prepping them each step of the way. That personal connection of helping someone through such an arduous process has given me a greater appreciation of both the trials of others and my ability to assist them.
Joe Farmer: Catholic Migration Services, New York