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Law students help immigrants

Paul Spadafora | Friday, November 12, 2004

In an effort to help citizens of foreign countries apply for residency in the United States, law students are volunteering to help those in need file their applications to the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program.

The Diversity Program is a government lottery that selects 55,000 of the applicants for legal permanent resident visas. Law students are helping prepare the applications of any willing participant that wishes to apply.

Anne Egan, a third-year law student, said the services the law students provide help those with no access to a computer fill out the exclusively online application.

“Since the program stopped using paper applications two years ago, we’ve been running this program,” Egan said.

The law students set up computer kiosks at the local Robinson Community Center and guide applicants through the process.

“There are really specific requirements necessary, so we take the applicants picture and go through [their application] step-by-step,” Egan said. “It’s especially helpful if there are language barriers that would make applying difficult.”

Volunteers at the program take the required digital photo of the applicant, and then help the applicant complete their application.

“We go through the basic forms, country of origin, etc,” Egan said.

Volunteers also aid those who are filling out applications for their entire family.

“We also try to file applications for their spouse and children, but it’s more difficult because they need to bring digital photos of all the members who are applying,” Egan said.

Egan said that the program has received a good response from the community.

“It’s not just students looking up the information. Even people working on campus have stopped and looked at the fliers,” Egan said. “No fees are charged … people find it to be a great help, especially if they don’t have a computer of their own.”

According to Katie Hosty, a third-year law student, the program is an extension of a class on immigration law.

“It’s part of the class that you do [an immigration] project within the community, because throughout the semester you’re learning how the immigration laws in the United States work, along with the various programs that people can use to enter the country,” Hosty said.

Hosty said the Diversity Lottery is designed to provide options for immigrants

“One of the purposes of the immigration law is to help promote diversity, by helping countries that are traditionally underrepresented by immigration in the United States.” Hosty said.

Egan explained who the law applies to.

“There are two main caps for eligibility,” Egan said. “The first is that immigrants from countries that have sent more than 50,000 immigrants to the United States in the last five years cannot apply. The second is that no more than 7 percent of all visas may go to a particular country.”

Despite the limitations, Egan said the program is an excellent stepping-stone to full citizenship.

“As a legal permanent resident, you can apply for citizenship after five years of residence.” Egan said. “This would almost always be the first step that an immigrant to the U.S. takes … it’s their first step on the road to full citizenship.”

This year, law students will be running the Robinson Community Center kiosks on Nov. 18, from 6 to 8 p.m. and Nov. 20, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.