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Free citizenship clinics a boon for people in local communities and on USC campuses

The university is also hosting a free 12-week prep course to help with civics and English tests

Lawyer goes over paperwork with student at citizenship clinic
Attorney and USC alumna Jean Reisz, left, talks with Paula Helu-Brown about her citizenship paperwork. (USC Photo/Gus Ruelas)

USC kicked off its free citizenship clinics this week to help students, staff, faculty and community members complete and file naturalization applications.

A team of attorneys and students with the USC Gould School of Law’s Immigration Clinic is providing free legal support to assist permanent residents who are eligible for naturalized citizenship. More than 200 members of the Trojan Family are taking part in the workshops on the University Park Campus and Health Sciences Campus.

“Thanks to the support of USC, the Immigration Clinic has been able to expand our services to help more people both here on campus and in the neighboring communities,” said Professor Niels Frenzen, the clinic’s director.

Paula Helu-Brown, a postdoctoral fellow at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work and a native of Mexico, was excited and relieved when she heard USC was hosting citizenship workshops.

“I tried to handle this process on my own and it is very intimidating,” she said. “It was stressful for me to complete the paperwork while I was working on my dissertation. And it’s expensive to get attorney assistance. I am so thankful to USC for this.”

A firm commitment

As part of the process, USC is also hosting a free 12-week prep course to help with the civics and English tests for USC employees, contract employees and family members of employees or contract employees. In addition, the USC Credit Union is offering micro-loans to members of the USC community for the $725 citizenship application fee. Loans of up to $3,000 are available if multiple applications are being filed for family members.

Check-in table at the clinic

Felix Medina, right, and his wife Alicia check in for the clinic. (USC Photo/Gus Ruelas)

“USC is committed to this initiative. Becoming a citizen is as American as apple pie,” said Martha Escutia, vice president for USC Government Relations. “We want to spread the message to the people who live throughout our communities: Don’t be afraid. The USC Gould Immigration Clinic will help you with the process of becoming a citizen. I hope people take advantage of this opportunity.”

Ana Chavez Maldonado, a junior at USC who immigrated from Guatemala to Los Angeles when she was 2 years old, is pursuing citizenship with her mother. “I am so thankful that USC is taking the initiative in this political climate,” she said.

Aga Paul, a native of Poland and staff member at USC’s International Academy, Global and Strategic Initiatives, has been investigating the citizenship process and was astounded by the high costs of hiring an attorney.

“Receiving this professional assistance for free is like receiving a $3,000 gift from USC.”

Thanks to the clinics at USC, “we will benefit with a stronger community filled with people who feel safe and who will therefore be able to make even more positive contributions to our civic discourse and economy,” Frenzen said.


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Free citizenship clinics a boon for people in local communities and on USC campuses

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