The Pathway to Citizenship Resource Fair held at Central Park Library on March 26 drew a crowd of about 200 Bay Area residents interested in pursuing U.S. citizenship.
City Librarian Hilary Keith welcomed everyone before introducing dignitaries. USCIS District Director John Kramar, Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor and California District 17 Congressman Ro Khanna made remarks.
Mayor Gillmor shared that her family knew firsthand the stressful process of becoming a citizen.
“Twenty-five years ago, my husband took the pathway to citizenship…and it was stressful for our family,” said Gillmor, whose husband was born in Cypress, an island country in the Mediterranean.
Congressman Khanna also knows firsthand about the pathway to citizenship. Although he was born in Philadelphia in 1976, his parents immigrated to the U.S. from New Delhi, India.
They never imagined or dared to dream that their son would one day be elected to the U.S. Congress. Indeed, Khanna was once told that because of his Hindu faith, he could never be elected for a high political office.
“No politician can ever stop the spirit of this nation…the spirit that there is no bar to how far you and your children can go,” said Khanna. “Be proud of your heritage…yet still celebrate this country.”
“Here, where we’re going to be competing with people from around the world, we have people from around the world to help us do so,” said Khanna.
Before and after opening remarks, fair attendees circulated around the Redwood Room, visiting the tables of 10 nonprofit service providers, asking questions, gathering information and snacking on free refreshments.
The 2017 American Community Survey states that 23 percent of the City of Santa Clara’s population has non-citizenship status. Each situation is unique.
Anuradha Kulkarni, a widow from India, lives in Santa Clara with her son, daughter-in-law and grandson. She has been in the U.S. since 2010 and got her green card in 2013, so she now qualifies to apply for citizenship.
“I want to be a citizen because I like this country too much,” said Kulkarni. “I like the bus service. I go to the India Community Center at Homestead and De Anza [in Cupertino]. I like to live with my family here.”
“I like American people,” she said.
Then Kulkarni shared the story of how she lost her purse at the Senior Center in Mountain View and got it back after four days with all her money and possessions still inside it.
Redwood City resident Ali Abdelbary, who was born in Cairo, Egypt, received a U.S. green card by lottery. He has been in the U.S. four years and must wait until he has been here five years before he can apply for citizenship.
“My wife and I have three kids, one born in the U.S., and I want my kids to have good education and learning,” said Abdelbary, who works for Apple. “When I become an American citizen, more opportunities will be available to them.”
“The library is a place for everybody to learn and grow. It’s important that we provide this [Pathway to Citizenship information]. Fifty-five percent of immigrants use the library every week,” said Keith. “We want to be inclusive and provide community for these new immigrants.”
Central Park Library, 2635 Homestead Rd., hosts monthly citizenship application workshops by the International Rescue Committee. It has a Citizenship Corner on the second floor behind the reference desk. A book section for English learners is also on the second floor.
“Get a library card,” were Keith’s final words to those on the pathway to U.S. citizenship.