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.
"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.