By Joan F. Simoneau, Community Reporter
Marlborough – “My son says he is a full American and I am only a half-American,” said Valdicia Joly, expressing her desire to become a U. S. citizen to a volunteer at a citizenship clinic held July 18. The native of Brazil married a resident of Cumberland, R.I., 15 years ago and has lived there with him and their three children since.
Joly was one of over 100 who attended the free clinic, sponsored by State Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, and the Mass. Immigrant Refugee Advocacy (MIRA) Coalition, held at the Ministerio Internacional Rios de Agua Viva Church in Marlborough.
Leading their staff members and volunteers at the event were Eldridge and Elizabeth Pimental, MIRA citizenship program manager. They provided help for qualified immigrants who needed assistance in filling out the 21-page application for naturalization, acquainting them with waivers for the $680 application fee charged by the government and information on other citizenship programs. Volunteers spoke English, Portuguese and Spanish.
Suzanne Metro and Kevin Dutremble, MIRA’s New American Integration Program AmeriCorps members, greeted many of the attendees as they arrived and led them to volunteers who could assist them on a one-on-one basis. Many residents stopped to speak with Ines Soares, vice counselor of the Brazilian Consulate in Boston, who provided hospitality and information.
“I am very pleased with the turnout and proud to represent communities that are diverse and have vibrant immigration interest,” Eldridge said. “I am happy to sponsor the meeting with MIRA and help my constituents become U.S. citizens,” he said.
The MIRA Coalition is the largest organization in New England promoting the rights and integration of immigrants and refugees. They serve the commonwealth’s 1 million foreign-born residents with policy analysis and advocacy, institutional organizing, training and leadership development, strategic communications and citizenship assistance. The coalition involves an active membership of more than 130 organizations, including community-based groups, schools and religious institutions. Additional information is available at www.miracoalition.org.
The New American Integration Program (NAIP) recruits 30 committed individuals annually from diverse backgrounds to assist and strengthen the work of community based organizations that serve refugees and immigrants, assisting clients from over 50 different countries. NAIP is an AmeriCorps Program supported by the Massachusetts Service Alliance. To apply, please visit www.mass.gov/ori.
To be eligible for citizenship, residents must have been a legal permanent resident for five years, or three years if married to a U.S. citizen, have no problems with the law, and speak, write and read basic English.