Mayor Ed Murray met and shook hands with many of the immigrants waiting to be registered for consultation.
Mayor Ed Murray met and shook hands with many of the immigrants waiting to be registered for consultation. Ramon Dompor

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Hundreds of people came to Seattle Center's McCaw Hall on Friday afternoon hoping to advance their application for naturalization in the US during a recurring Citizenship Workshop held by Seattle's Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs.

For many immigrants, the N-400 application is a roadblock to citizenship.

"A lot of immigrants and refugees who are legal permanent residents often have difficulty filling out the N-400 form—especially if they’re elderly, disabled, have limited english proficiency, or if they're low income," said Joaquin Uy, PIO to the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs.

Joaquin Uy (second from right), explained that there was a rise in bias and hate crimes following President Trumps election win.
Joaquin Uy (second from right), said that there was a rise in bias and hate crimes following President Trump's election win. Ramon Dompor

"Lawyers and attorneys will charge $400-$600 for assistance with the N-400. For folks with little means, this [workshop] is an opportunity to come and get the assistance that they need for free so they can take that first step on the path to citizenship," said Uy.

Many of those attending reported feeling pressure to apply for citizenship now due to fears of coming possible changes in U.S. immigration policy. Phillip Harris, originally of the UK, came to the workshop seeking help with his application. "I’ve been thinking about [applying for citizenship] for a while, but just with what’s going on, my partner said maybe we should do it now just in case. You never know what’s going to happen with new administration," Harris said of Donald Trump's presidency.

"It feels like they’re just looking for excuses to get rid of people. It’s not a very nice feeling not to feel welcome," said Harris.

Carlos Espinoza, originally of Mexico, also cited Trump's administration as a driving force in becoming a naturalized citizen. "There’s more pressure on our side being Latino, so I wanted to do this in case new changes happen, before the new president starts changing everything," Espinoza said.

For updates about future citizenship events, check the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs homepage here.

Teams of lawyers and attorneys volunteered to assist over 300 immigrants and refugees in completing their N-400 citizenship application.
Teams of lawyers and attorneys volunteered to assist over 300 immigrants and refugees in completing their N-400 citizenship application. Ramon Dompor

Interpreters were on hand to help bridge the language barrier between attorneys and immigrants/refugees.
Interpreters were on hand to help bridge the language barrier between attorneys and immigrants/refugees. Ramon Dompor

Over 750 people volunteered to assist at the event.
Over 750 people volunteered to assist at the event. Ramon Dompor

A volunteer holds up a card indicating she is available to meet with an immigrant/refugee concerning their citizenship application.
A volunteer holds up a card indicating she is available to meet with an immigrant/refugee concerning their citizenship application. Ramon Dompor

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A man discusses his N-400 application with a volunteer at the Citizenship Workshop.
A man discusses his N-400 application with a volunteer at the Citizenship Workshop. Ramon Dompor

Armando (left) came to the workshop to take advantage of the free legal services.
Armando (left) came to the workshop to take advantage of the free legal services. "I'm here to try to fix my citizenship papers and stay legal in the U.S. I've lived here for 25 years. Every time we tried to come in, we sometimes don't have money to pay for the cost of the papers to make citizenship. This is good to help people trying to make it right." Ramon Dompor

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Ramon Dompor