Library helps residents prepare for citizenship tests

09/12/2018

A program to aid legal residents on the path to citizenship began at the Point Reyes Library on Tuesday evening, when Annemarie Russo, the branch’s literacy coordinator, launched a study group to prepare residents for the English and civics tests that are a part of the naturalization process. “A lot of libraries in the U.S. have been pioneering movements to integrate immigration resources as part of their expertise,” Ms. Russo said. “This is a way within the current political landscape that we can take action to help people, because there’s a shortage of immigration lawyers.” The classes complement a larger, nationwide initiative called the New Americans Campaign, which helps permanent legal residents on their journey to citizenship. The campaign holds legal workshops to help residents fill out the N-400, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ naturalization form. In May, the Marin County Free Library partnered with the campaign, and now helps out with the legal workshops, which occur quarterly. Ms. Russo said the library was a natural fit for the classes, as it has both the necessary space and resources in the form of ESL books and literature on citizenship. The immigration service’s English test has three components: reading, writing and speaking; for the civics test, applicants are presented 10 questions out of a list of 100 and must answer at least six correctly (questions include “Name one of the two longest rivers in the U.S.” and “What is one thing Benjamin Franklin is famous for?”). Ms. Russo said she knows of five locals who have applied for citizenship and plan to attend the study sessions. “People have been asking for it for a while,” she said, but “the timing just wasn’t right—we’ve got so many things happening here at the library. And then it just really streamlined with the [New Americans] campaign.” Claudia Pruess, a West Marin resident who has lived in the U.S. since 1963, said she hopes to become a citizen because it would make it significantly easier for her to travel. “I have a green card,” she said, “and it’s hard to get to Germany to see my sister. If I have an American passport, it would be so much better in this world, I tell you.” The classes will continue until December, when the next legal workshop will take place, at which point Ms. Russo said the library will evaluate the program and make changes as necessary. “This is one way we can really improve our country,” Ms. Russo said, “by getting people who are immigrants to naturalize so they can have the right to vote or the right to run for office.” Citizenship classes take place from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesdays at the Point Reyes Library in Point Reyes Station. For more information, call (415) 663.8375.