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Law student Roxanne Jackson and attorney Joanne Fakhre assist an applicant seeking U.S. citizenship.
Jax Daily Record Monday, May 8, 201712:00 PM EST

Citizenship Day: 10 life-changing years

by: Kathy Para

The 10th annual Citizenship Day event was April 15 at Florida Coastal School of Law. Attorneys and law students volunteered their time and knowledge to guide legal permanent residents seeking U.S. citizenship status.

Volunteers counseled the applicants on properly completing documents and what to expect during the naturalization process.

The Citizenship Day project received financial and/or in-kind support from the American Immigration Lawyers Association, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, Florida Coastal School of Law, Florida Coastal School of Law Foundation, Florida Coastal Clinical Department, Florida Coastal Pro Bono, Florida Coastal Student Bar Association, the Volunteer Immigrant Student Alliance, The Jacksonville Bar Association and Jacksonville Area Legal Aid.

Florida Coastal supports Citizenship Day as one of its annual signature events. The project is coordinated by the school’s Naturalization and Citizenship Clinic and the Immigrants and Human Rights Clinic under the direction of professors Kara Roberts and Ericka Curran.

To prepare for the event, attorney volunteers viewed a naturalization CLE webinar to learn how to prepare the application and spot possible pitfalls.

Roberts said the goal is to make Citizenship Day better every year.

“The students in my class recruit and coordinate the volunteer contributions of many student groups. We congratulate and thank the dozens of students and attorneys who put time and effort into making this resource available to so many deserving applicants,” she said.

Participation in Citizenship Day is one of the JBA’s Law Week observances and this year its support of the event could not be more fitting.

The theme for Law Week 2017 as established by the American Bar Association is “The 14th Amendment: Transforming American Democracy.”

The ABA website explains that this year’s theme provides an opportunity to “explore the many ways that the 14th Amendment has reshaped American law and society” and “Through its citizenship, due process and equal protection clauses, this transformative amendment advanced the rights of all Americans. It also played a pivotal role in extending the reach of the Bill of Rights to the states.”

The ABA says the 14th Amendment serves as the cornerstone of landmark civil rights legislation, the foundation for numerous federal court decisions protecting fundamental rights and a source of inspiration for all those who advocate for equal justice under law.

“Many of the applicants served on Citizenship Day come from countries that are not founded on a commitment of liberty and justice for all and equal rights for every person. These people remind us of how important our legal protections are in the U.S. and how critical it is for each of us to appreciate and protect those rights,” said John Wallace, chair of The JBA Law Week Committee.

While student volunteers helped the participants complete their naturalization applications, the participating attorneys counseled applicants about issues that may arise and whether additional legal assistance may be advisable. Attorneys conducted a final review of the documents and ensured that applicants were eligible to apply for citizenship.

Those who did not meet the eligibility requirements were referred to Jacksonville Area Legal Aid for further representation or to other community agencies for assistance.

About 125 immigrant residents received services, making Citizenship Day 2017 another resounding success and another meaningful pro bono effort.

Sincere thanks are extended to the attorneys who served at this year’s event: Maria Aguila, Michelle Atack, Iana Benjamin, Don Boggs, Kim Bouchard, Tim Bramwell, Michelle Broyles, Melina Buncome, Ralph Chavers, Beverly Clarke, Luke Cornelius, McCarthy Crenshaw Jr., Lisa DiFranza, Bruce Duggar, Ekee Ehrlich, Joanne Fakhre, Lenny Feigel, Angela Mathews Gale, James Galloway, Laura Gapske, Ada Hammond, Priscilla Justiniano, Marciana Logu, Shana Loomar, Sylvia Lopez Barrera, Gabriela Narvaez, Leslie Ng, Ingrid Osborn, Diana Owusu, Roland Rodriguez, Cyndy Trimmer and Karen Winston.

Paralegals Claudia Alcaraz, Lisa Grosskruger-Edler and Yvonne Edo-Olotu also assisted.

For information on pro bono opportunities in the 4th Judicial Circuit or to be added to the list of attorneys interested in Citizenship Day 2018, email [email protected].

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