More than 1,200 immigrants and refugees took up Seattle’s offer for free legal help on inauguration day, according to the city's estimate. The city organized the event to help undocumented parents and others seeking citizenship, but some found they arrived too late.
Filipino immigrant Voltaire Belleza took time off work to get to the citizenship workshop. He has a green card and arrived ready to tackle his citizenship application after 16 years in the U.S.
"But it didn’t work today," he said with a laugh.
The city flyer said the application help ran from noon to 3 p.m. Belleza arrived at 2 p.m. But it was first come, first served. And all the available appointments were already snapped up.
"The announcement I saw at the apartment — it wasn’t clear that I had to set an appointment or something," Belleza said. "It probably would’ve been successful for me to apply today.”
People started to line up several hours before the official start time. And the city capped citizenship applications at 100 people.
Other legal services were offered throughout the day, including consultations with immigration attorneys or the Mexican consulate, know-your-rights workshops and family safety planning. Hundreds of people took part.
But Belleza and others came with a singular goal: To finally complete their citizenship application.
"All done, yes," said Mill Creek resident Armando Diaz, laughing.
Diaz was one of the early birds. He got in line around 9 a.m. and scored one of the citizenship appointments. He left with his completed application in hand.
“I feel good," said Diaz, who's originally from Mexico and later became a permanent resident. "I feel good because this is the right step.”
The city plans to follow up with more citizenship workshops, on a smaller scale.