Citizenship Initiative helps undocumented residents file costly paperwork for free


Hundreds of students seeking citizenship filed paperwork free of charge through a San Francisco Pathways to Citizenship Initiative event April 27 in the Mashouf Wellness Center.

San Francisco Pathways to Citizenship Initiative hosted the event, which was one of the many workshops it organizes every other month throughout the city.

This event was geared to help undocumented immigrants who live in constant fear of deportation.

“Whenever I go somewhere, I’m scared because you never know what will happen, you never know who will stop me,” said Jessa Collo, 19, a business major at SF State. “Now I can just be free.”

According to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in 2018 more than 250,000 undocumented immigrants were removed from the country, a 13-percent increase from 2017.

The current fee for filing a naturalization form is $725. At the initiative’s workshop, a fee waiver is offered to those eligible, according to

If for some reason an applicant is not eligible for the fee waiver, Mission Asset Fund, a nonprofit that assists those with financial insecurity, is available to assist with loans to help pay off the fee.

“Everyone is really helpful,” said Pastor Bejinez, 39, a teacher for the San Francisco Unified School District. “The processing goes pretty well, you go from one station to the other and everyone is patient.”

The workshop opened at 9:30 a.m. and closed its doors at 12:30 p.m., during which time hundreds of foreign-born residents filed their applications.

“The day was a success. We got a lot more people than expected, so that’s always good,” said Ruth Pimental, 42, a criminal justice major who is currently interning for the public defender’s office. “I find it my duty to help within the community, and immigration is a hot topic right now. So, if there’s anything I can do to help, that’s what I want to bring to SFSU.”

Pathways to Citizenship Initiative receives help from volunteers who prepare the forms with applicants before they are reviewed by lawyers, who were also made available at the workshop.

According to its website, the organization was established in 2013 and has helped more than 9,000 people complete their naturalization applications.

Pimental said she learned of this service by volunteering herself. She said she thought it would be a good idea to bring the workshop to SF State.

“I had participated as a volunteer in the community, doing the workshop that we’re going to be hosting,” she said. “Also, being in this administration, there’s been a lot of immigration concerns, and students come in with those concerns and issues.”

Teenagers and young adults came with their non-English speaking parents to offer their assistance as translators, however, translators were available for languages such as Spanish, Mandarin and Japanese, among others.