It was through helping his fellow immigrants that Eduardo Peñaloza became an American citizen.
Eduardo Peñaloza is a proud immigrant and, most importantly, an American.
The former executive director at Mixteca Organization in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, came across the CUNY Citizenship NOW! program while helping the Mexican and immigrant communities with education, legal, health and social issues.
Peñaloza, now a consultant living in Teaneck, N.J., says he reached out to CUNY in December 2016 because of its free resources and lawyers’ dedication to helping immigrants in the citizenship application process.
“The fact that they do the whole process for free is just incredible,” he says of CUNY and the Daily News’ initiative.
“In the times of DACA, this program looked for funds to make it available for those who couldn’t pay the application fee.”
Peñaloza came to the United States from Mexico City on a student visa in 1997 and then married an American citizen before becoming a permanent resident.Peñaloza, 54, became a U.S. citizen in July 2017 after receiving help from CUNY Citizenship NOW!
“It’s a wonderful feeling even now that I get to sing the Star Spangled Banner,” he says. “I love the U.S. It’s a great country.”
However, Peñaloza says he condemns President Trump’s immigration policies and stressed that voting could help make a difference.
“The feeling of voting is something people need to appreciate,” he says. “If you’re born a citizen you’re so used to this.”
Peñaloza says he also recommended the program to many of his past clients he helped at Mixteca and the Mexican consulate who came to him desperately looking for services after Trump was elected President in November 2016.
“In those days, it was sheer fear,” he says. “There was desperation.”
He says he’s going to continue helping his community and spreading the word of the program’s immigration services.
“CUNY for many years has been the most outstanding ally of the Mexican community,” Peñaloza says. “They clearly understand that help is needed when a person arrives with an immigration question.”
Want free, expert help applying for U.S. citizenship? Come to the CUNY/Daily News Citizenship Application Assistance Event and Immigration Fair on June 30 at John Jay College.