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Lynne Stewart, a paralegal at Nolan Sheehan Patten, first met Marie* in the spring of 2017 at one of the Clearinghouse’s Legal Clinics for the Homeless at the Boston-based youth shelter Bridge.

Marie was seeking assistance because her bag containing her wallet and all of her ID cards, including her green card, had been stolen. Without her green card and IDs, Marie, who had come to the United States with her mother 6 years prior, was unable to apply for housing or employment or access other services.

Lynne set out to help Marie acquire a replacement green card and reached out to an immigration attorney for advice regarding the complex application form. In the process of discussing and researching the case, Lynne and the attorney learned that Marie’s mother had been naturalized since arriving in the U.S. As Marie had still been a minor at that time, she had actually derived citizenship through her mother and was herself a citizen without knowing it.

Instead of applying for a replacement green card, Lynne now needed to help Marie apply for an official Certificate of Citizenship. She started to compile the required documents, many of which were written in French from Marie’s native country of Haiti. With assistance from Clearinghouse clinic mentor Heather Friedman, Lynne found an organization to translate Marie’s application documents free of charge.

In the fall of 2018, Lynne and Heather reviewed and submitted the completed application and were fortunately able to acquire a fee waiver for the $1000 application fee. A few months later, Marie underwent the required background check.

Throughout this time-consuming process, Marie was still unable to access housing and missed out on multiple job opportunities because she did not have the information she needed to prove her citizenship.

After months of waiting for an official response, Lynne contacted the office of U.S. Representative Ayanna Pressley. The office immigration liaison was able to track down the status of Marie’s case, which they learned had been approved.

Finally, in January of 2020, Marie was notified that she had a date to take her Oath of Allegiance and finalize her citizenship. She was allowed to bring one person to the ceremony and asked Lynne to join her.

Today, Marie is doing well, has a steady job, and can easily pursue new opportunities with the peace of mind that she is a naturalized citizen.

* Name changed to protect privacy.

“It would have been impossible for Marie* to do this by herself; there are so many roadblocks put in front of people […] When somebody is dealing with homelessness and trying to figure out where their next meal is coming from, any additional issues can be so overwhelming. To be able to help is wonderful.” – Lynne Stewart, Paralegal, Nolan Sheehan Patten LLP

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