CUNY Prides Itself On Diversity
Queensboro Community College students celebrate their diversity. Tribune Photo by Ira Cohen
By Matthew Goldstein
Immigration and citizenship are among the most important issues in our country today, especially in New York City. Each year about 100,000 permanent residents settle in the city and nearly the same number qualify for naturalization. It has been estimated that some 800,000 undocumented immigrants live in the New York area, part of over 11 million in the nation.
CUNY’s students hail from 165 different countries. They enrich our understanding of the world, of other religions and cultures, of history from other points of view, and help to broaden our tastes in music, food, literature, and art. Many of our student stars who have won highly prestigious and competitive scholarships and fellowships, were born in other countries. Like generations before them, they came to America because they knew this is the land of opportunity.
I am very proud that CUNY is the national leader in higher education in offering citizenship services to our students and the immigrant community.
For the third year in a row, CUNY will collaborate with the New York Daily News to offer the Citizenship Now! Call-In, in which callers receive free immigration advice over the phone from May 1 to May 5 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. It will be headed by Allan Wernick, the Chair of CUNY’s highly regarded Citizenship and Immigration Project and a Professor of Law at Baruch College. In the overwhelming response to last April’s event, 140,000 calls were placed to the Call-In.
A CUNY Web site (www.cuny.edu/citizenship) provides answers to the most frequently asked questions on citizenship and naturalization, permanent residency, employment-based immigration, and asylum and refugee status, among other topics.
CUNY has expanded its Campus Immigration Law Service Centers. At present there are five full-time centers, each staffed by an immigration lawyer, located at City College, Hostos Community College, New York City College of Technology, Medgar Evers College and Queensborough Community College’s downtown Flushing Center. Two part-time centers at York College and LaGuardia Community College will soon become full-time centers, while another is planned for the Washington Heights community.
The University also makes its campuses available, free of charge, for swearing-in ceremonies. This initiative was inspired by President Eduardo J. Marti of Queensborough Community College, himself a Cuban immigrant. Approximately 1,000 people have their citizenship applications approved each day in the city, creating a huge backlog for swearing-in ceremonies that are normally held at courthouses and other government venues. We plan to offer such ceremonies at every CUNY campus, in cooperation with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service.
CUNY’s Immigration Certificate Program, which was launched a year-and-a half ago in the School for Professional Studies, now enrolls some 150 students. Next year the program will be made available nationwide online and is of special interest to employers and employees who work closely with immigrants.
In our city of immigrants, I salute Queens, the borough of immigrants. I invite the community to take full advantage of the services The City University of New York offers to help newcomers realize their dreams.
Matthew Goldstein is the Chancellor of the City University of New York