LaGuardia Community College’s Center for Immigrant Education and Training has partnered with Catholic Migration Services, a non-profit legal services organization, to provide New Yorkers with access to free U.S. citizenship classes and legal services. The new program is supported by a two-year $250,000 Citizenship and Integration grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Dr. Gail Mellow, president of LaGuardia Community College. Photo Courtesy

Dr. Gail Mellow, president of LaGuardia Community College. Photo Courtesy

“This new program is exactly what our nation needs right now:  provide education and legal assistance to help immigrant New Yorkers of good standing to make the United States their home with all the rights and privileges that come with being a U.S. citizen—being able to vote, to serve as a sponsor for family members to move to the U.S. from other countries, and more,” said LaGuardia Community College President Gail O. Mellow.

The first class began earlier this month and more classes will be offered over the next two years. New Yorkers from all five boroughs are eligible to apply for the program. The program aims to assist low-income, low and intermediate level adult English language learners improve their English skills.

For many immigrants, speaking English enables them to have better communication with their children’s teachers and with healthcare professionals, and supports advancements in their careers. For example, according to American Community Survey three-year estimates, nearly 48 percent of residents in community districts adjacent to LaGuardia’s report speaking English “less than very well.”

LaGuardia’s program is expected to prepare approximately 200 New Yorkers for the U.S. citizenship examination. Twenty-five will be enrolled every three months for an 11-week program. Participants must be legal permanent residents with a valid Green Card in order to participate. For a complete list of eligibility requirements and to submit a request to attend an upcoming information session about the course, click here.

Through LaGuardia’s Center for Immigrant Education and Training, participants will review material for the English language skills and civics portions of the U.S. citizenship test—including coursework to improve English reading/writing/speaking skills for those who need it. Classes will be held on weekday evenings (6:30 p.m.—9 p.m.) to better accommodate those with full-time jobs.

“Our English as a second language programs have become national models for the use of contextualized instruction—in which industry-specific materials are used to teach basic academic and technical skills,” said John Hunt, LaGuardia’s Executive Director for Adult Community Learning. “In this English and Citizenship program, U.S. history and civics information will be integrated into English language skills coursework. Students will, for example, improve their English skills by reading about the U.S. Constitution, and will practice speaking English by talking about our branches of government.

“Studies have shown that adult learners are much more engaged in coursework if they believe the material is directly relevant to them,” said Hunt.

Over 9,000 adults have been served by LaGuardia’s Center for Immigrant Education and Training since it opened in 2001. It has been ranked highly proficient in New York State Education Department’s adult education report card rating each fiscal year. And in 2011, the Center received a National Council for Continuing Education and Training Exemplary Program Award.

Partnering with LaGuardia on this program is Catholic Migration Services.  For 46 years, Catholic Migration Services has been providing legal services to low-income immigrants, regardless of religion, ethnicity, or race.  Every year, Catholic Migration Services helps hundreds of immigrants become U.S. citizens.  “We are very excited about our new partnership with LaGuardia.  Our program will provide the integrated educational and legal services that immigrants need to become citizens,” said David Colodny, Esq., Director of Legal Services, Catholic Migration Services. This grant supports CMS in providing naturalization legal services to 250 lawful permanent residents over two years.

New Yorkers interested in this program should visit or visit the Center for Immigrant Education and Training at LaGuardia Community College in person, located at 29-10 Thomson Avenue, Room C-239, Long Island City, Queens, NY 11101. Or call the Center for Immigrant Education and Training at (718)-482-5460.

For information on accessing free naturalization legal services from Catholic Migration Services, click here.