The consistent paradox of NYC
This begins week 3 of living and working in the Bronx. My first week or so here in NYC, I was admittedly consumed with settling in and establishing some semblance of a routine (still working on that, as a matter of fact). NYC has this way of being simultaneously completely energizing and exhausting. I often find myself oscillating between both of these states multiple times, on the daily. Oof.
But there is no doubt that NYC reigns supreme in terms of immigration resources in the US. The sheer number of legal services organizations is astounding. There is so much to do and so much to learn.
A friend once told me that living and working in NYC, one has to be sure to have a specific intentionality -- or risk being swallowed up by New York's energy.
I totally agree with this sentiment. Although many of the days, the work and pace of New York life can feel exhausting, there's not a day that goes by where I don't recognize the privilege of being able to be able to live and work here.
Some immigration stories from the Bronx
Last Friday was the first full immigration legal clinic that I ran out of St. Luke's on E 138th here in the South Bronx. I worked with the pastor to put a notice in the weekly bulletin and managed my expectations because it was right before the long holiday weekend.
But the clinic was very busy and I consulted clients back to back. Here are some of their stories:
1. There was a woman who is a community leader here in the South Bronx -- she has been leading one of the community organizational efforts here for almost 20 years -- and has been awaiting her citizenship status this entire time. She was granted Temporary Protected Status from Honduras and her wait has been long and arduous. As she told me: "I've been working in this community for almost 20 years. What more do I need to do to be officially a member of this country?"
2. Another woman around my age came in and asked several questions on behalf of her family members -- a mother who wanted to establish citizenship from a green card -- and a brother who had already paid nearly $15,000 for another lawyer who didn't file the paperwork on time. She told me that there were hardly any immigration lawyers in the South Bronx and that she and many of her family/friends had to travel to Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn in order to receive help.
I was simultaneously surprised and not so surprised to hear the news. But living and working in a community that is predominantly Latino -- it feels as though there should be more legal resources existing here within the community.
I also spoke with a friend who works at a nearby community organization a handful of blocks away from where I'm living at the moment. She also confirmed the lack of local immigration attorneys who are able to advise.
To me, the situation reiterates the seemingly NYC paradoxical notion of having so many people around -- but a lack of resources.
3. A man came by with a corrected version of his citizenship test and we went over some of the answers together. He told me that he is going to take the exam in two months and that he is very much looking forward to that next step.
And, I have heard others mention this, but wanted to confirm: that citizenship test is pretty tricky. I can nearly guarantee that many Americans would not know many answers on that exam. Without a doubt, there are new immigrants in this country who undoubtedly know more about American history than Americans themselves.
It's another week with the legal clinic this Friday and I am also doing some pro bono work with Make the Road out in Jackson Heights, Queens. More to come soon!