NYLAG Expands Naturalization Legal Services in Chinatown

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From left to right: Elvira Pinkhasova, Assistant Director of NYLAG's Immigrant Protection Unit; Deborah Chen, NYLAG staff attorney, Eric Ng, CCBA President, Margaret Chin, New York City Councilmember; Irina Matiychenko, Director of  NYLAG's Immigrant Protection Unit; Mirjam Grunenfelder, NYLAG paralegal.

From left to right: Elvira Pinkhasova, Assistant Director of NYLAG’s Immigrant Protection Unit; Deborah Chen, NYLAG Staff Attorney, Eric Ng, CCBA President, Margaret Chin, New York City Councilmember; Irina Matiychenko, Director of NYLAG’s Immigrant Protection Unit; Mirjam Grunenfelder, NYLAG Paralegal.

In a press conference on April 9, attorneys and staff from the New York Legal Assistance Group, New York City Council Member Margaret Chin and staff from the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (CCBA) announced an enhanced legal services program in Manhattan’s Chinatown.

Starting on April 10, NYLAG Immigration Attorney Deborah Chen will bolster the weekly naturalization and citizenship legal service clinics offered every Thursday at the CCBA headquarters. Chen, a fluent Mandarin-speaker, will be on-site at the clinic, advising clients and staff and assisting with applications.  Her work at the clinic is funded by a grant from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Prior to Chen, the CCBA clinic was staffed by volunteers and did not have a Mandarin-Speaking attorney on-site.

“For over 10 years we have offered citizenship and naturalization legal services,” said CCBA President Eric Ng. “This expanded partnership is a good benefit for our community.”

Though the primary focus of the clinic is to assist with applications for naturalization and citizenship, staff can refer clients with other legal needs to NYLAG for a wide variety of civil legal services.

“In addition to immigration legal services, NYLAG provides critical assistance in a wide variety of legal areas, such as family law, public benefits, housing, elder law, etc.” said Irina Matiychenko, Director of the Immigrant Protection Unit at NYLAG. “We look forward to partnering with the CCBA and expanding services to people who need assistance.”

Matiychenko said that NYLAG will be screening all people who come to the CCBA for services, and emphasized the agency’s expanded ability to assist naturalization applicants with disabilities and others who might be eligible for fee waivers.

This is not the first time that NYLAG and the CCBA have joined forces. In 2009, the agencies partnered to reach and assist thousands of former clients of the New York Association for New Americans (NYANA) who needed legal assistance after NYANA closed its doors.