SUNNYSIDE — There are very few immigration attorneys in our state.
That’s according to Rosana Donoso of OneAmerica, a Seattle-based non-profit that assists people needing legal representation when seeking citizenship.
She and others from the organization were in Sunnyside at Lower Valley Credit Union for a workshop during which locals could obtain legal advice and representation.
Rep. Dan Newhouse (WA-4) was also in town for Father’s Day weekend, and he stopped to learn about the workshop.
Donoso said most people must speak English in order to take the citizenship test, and processing citizenship cases take an inordinate amount of time in some places. In Florida, it can be 3 years before a person’s application is processed, and in Seattle, it can take 15 months.
But, in the Yakima Valley, at the Yakima Citizenship and Immigration Services field office, it is only about three months.
For that reason, Donoso said Seattle is considering sending cases to Yakima… and Portland.
“What isn’t accounted for is the additional cost of attorneys,” she told Newhouse, stating there are travel expenses associated with sending cases outside the typical jurisdiction.
The citizenship fee is $725, but attorney fees can be in excess of $1,000. “It’s very expensive, especially for those who work in the field,” Donoso said.
Some can obtain fee waivers for themselves and there is a form for children to obtain automatic citizenship that can cost an additional $1,600, she said.
These are just some of the reasons workshops like the one on June 15 are organized.
Donoso and Bonnie Wasser Stern, also of OneAmerica, said people are fearful due to the current presidential administration.
Newhouse took it all in, stating he would like to see how he might help.
Wasser Stern shared with him the only immigration court in the region, including Idaho, is in Seattle. She said the courts aren’t independent of the Attorney General, either.
Those are issues she’d like him to look at to ensure fairness and objectivity.