From Foster Care to Citizenship: Two Young New Americans Forge a New Path

America is an adoptive home to arriving immigrants. For many, it provides safety, security and new opportunities to thrive.

And that’s exactly what it has meant to 18-year-olds Monyfa Alexander and Daniel Marshall, who grew up separately in the New York foster care system.

Monyfa and Daniel each came to the U.S. from Guyana with family members. But safety and security didn’t come right away, as both of their fathers’ alcoholism and abuse separated their families and forced the kids into foster care.

These hurdles didn’t deter the children.

NAC_Monyfa

Monyfa Alexander became a citizen on Sept. 22.

Monyfa was motivated to pursue citizenship. She knew the U.S. was where she wanted to call home and spend the rest of her life.

“I thought, ‘America is a great country; why not become a citizen?’ ” she said.

Monyfa’s father became a citizen before she turned 18. Children under the age of 18 can derive citizenship from their parents if the parents apply on their behalf. Her father did not.

When Monyfa turned 18, she sought the help of New Americans Campaign partner Catholic Migration Services, which told her that she could qualify for a fee waiver to help her afford the $680 application. Catholic Migration Services helped her apply for the waiver and complete her citizenship application. She applied in February and became a citizen on Sept. 22.

“I had my interview in August and then took the test and passed. In fact I answered every question correctly!” Monyfa said. “I was so proud of myself.”

She is excited about the opportunities available to her as a citizen. She recently completed her General Education Development (GED) test and plans to save money so that she can go to school and pursue her dream of being an ultrasound technician.

She also looks forward to voting in next year’s presidential election.

“I’m going to sign up to vote now,” said Alexander. “I think my voice matters.”

NAC_Daniel

Daniel Marshall became a citizen on Oct. 7.

Daniel Marshall also plans to pursue new opportunities as a U.S. citizen.

When he first came to the U.S., Daniel lacked the motivation to do well in school. But he soon realized how many possibilities education opened up for him in this country.

“I realized I couldn’t play around anymore,” said Daniel. “I had to change my attitude, do my schoolwork and obey the teachers.”

Daniel’s caseworker, Rachel Boucher, encouraged him to pursue citizenship.

“I explained what becoming a citizen would mean for him,” she said. “I knew he wanted to go to college, and the opportunities for grants and higher education in America [are] much easier when you’re a citizen.”

Daniel is now a freshman at Monroe College, pursuing his bachelor’s degree in information technology. He became a citizen Oct. 7 with the help of Catholic Migration Services.

There’s another thing both Monyfa and Daniel look forward to, and that’s bringing their mothers to the U.S. As citizens, they can petition the government for other family members to come to this country.

American citizenship may help Monyfa and Daniel reach their common dream: to be reunited with and to mend their broken families.

 

Posted on October 22, 2015

Our Impact

  • The Campaign has completed over 3,700 naturalization workshops and clinics.
  • Over 250,000 citizenship applications completed since July 2011.

    Saved aspiring citizens and their families over $206million in legal and application fees.
  • Adopted scalable technology. MP3 players, Google Voice, and Virtual Private Network (VPN) services are being used to enhance naturalization service delivery.
  • Expanded New American Workforce (an effort to provide naturalization assistance within corporations) which has partnered with over 100 businesses across the nation, ranging from hotels in Miami to American Apparel in Los Angeles.
  • Deployed Citizenshipworks, an online tool, across the Campaign in multiple settings and languages. A newly redesigned platform guides applicants through through their citizenship application from start to finish and connects applicants to legal help at partnering non-profits.
  • Were instrumental in inspiring the US Citizenship and Immigration Service to support the Citizenship Corners initiative.
  • Created innovative partnerships with public libraries, school districts, universities, social service agencies, and employers, all of which yield not only greater numbers of applicants but also greater awareness of the naturalization process.
  • Deployed a large-scale volunteer recruitment program through an e-learning course.

    Reached diverse communities. Local partners consistently outreach and provide culturally competent and language-appropriate services.
Learn more from our
Impact Report.

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Who We're Helping

People come to America from all over the world with dreams of achieving a better life for themselves and their families and calling this great nation home. Eight million people who live, work, and pay taxes in this country are eligible for citizenship, yet only about eight percent of them naturalize each year. Find out more about these individuals and the barriers they face.Read More