NEWBURGH — Last Saturday, Newburgh welcomed the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to the Newburgh Armory Unity Center during a formal open house.
The ceremony, attended by many local, county, state and federal politicians, each welcomed the immigration services satellite office to the Newburgh Armory Unity Center.
Local philanthropist William Kaplan has been pushing for the immigration office since April, 2013. That’s when he, and George Cooke, the state’s Commissioner of Jurors and Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney and many supporters began to lobby for a Naturalization Center.
There are an estimated 3,200 residents of the Mid-Hudson Region who complete the naturalization process yearly. That has a huge economic impact on people, spending so much time and money to travel to New York City.
That’s when Kaplan decided to sit down and do the math. He wanted to know what the economic impact was on the greater Hudson Valley. He calculated people’s loss wages and traveling expenses, when they missed work to deal with immigration issues. His bottom line totaled $1.9 million. That figure doesn’t include the loss in productivity for local businesses, lost revenues and taxes to local government.
With that number, combined with the central location of the Newburgh Armory, it was a no-brainer for Kaplan, who kept pushing until officials agreed to open a local office. For starters, the immigration satellite center will be open two Fridays a month, starting this Friday, July 18 from 8am – 4pm.
The USCIS will provide an array of services, including petition and application forms, case status inquiries, reschedule requests, green card inquiries, ELIS issues, Adit stamps and emergency advance paroles.
While the major steps involved in becoming a US citizen, including getting fingerprinted and being interviewed and tested by USCIS officials, won’t be handled initially in the Newburgh office, folks are hopeful that those services will be offered in the future.
Peter Gonzalez, president of Latinos Unidos of the Hudson Valley, said, "When immigration reform happens, this will be a very busy place," which was received with thunderous applause.
Newburgh Mayor Judy Kennedy said, "The community came together. Blacks, whites, Democrats, Republicans, to make something important happen." She said Congress and the federal government could learn a lesson or two in what was taking place at the Unity Center.