community colleges
community colleges

California is offering free immigration legal services for community college students

Photo Courtesy of TODEC

Palo Verde College in Blythe, California, had a special graduation ceremony for students who obtained U.S. citizenship with the help of legal services.

If you’re a student, staff or faculty member at a California community college, you’re eligible for free legal immigration services.

Since 2019, California has been investing $10 million yearly in a program that provides legal services to help community college students renew their status under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, identify options to apply for permanent residency or for permanent residents to apply for naturalization, among other services.

Anyone affiliated with any community college campus can sign up online for a consultation with an attorney or paralegal. Most campuses offer either in-person or online consultations, while some more remote campuses only offer online appointments.

Armando Martinez Vega came to the U.S. from Mexico in 2009, when he was in third grade, after his father obtained permanent residency for the family. Martinez Vega finished elementary school, middle school and high school in Watsonville, California, and then began attending community college.

When his dad finally obtained U.S. citizenship, Martinez Vega was 19, too old to naturalize automatically through his father’s application. He knew he had to apply for citizenship himself, but he had no idea how to go about it. Then, his sister brought home a flyer about free immigration legal services at Cabrillo College, where both siblings were taking classes.

Martinez Vega made an appointment to talk with an attorney, and last month he was sworn in as a citizen.

“I was really happy. It feels great, and you just feel more sure and more

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