Johanna Bonny: January 2012

Volunteer with citizenship now

Johanna Bonny Johanna Bonny is originally from Haiti and has been a Volunteer Corps Member since January 2010.

Q.  Why did you choose to volunteer with CUNY Citizenship Now?
  "After the January 12th 2010 earthquake struck Haiti, I wanted to help Haitians who were having immigration issues. One day, while entering York College to study, I noticed that some organization was having an event in which Haitians could apply for Temporary Protected Status. This organization was CUNY Citizenship Now. I asked for information from the site supervisor and registered myself online as a volunteer on the same day. Instead of exclusively helping Haitians, I became involved in the immigrant community with CUNY Citizenship Now!"

Q.  What is your favorite part about our Saturday events?
"Since I am a student, my favorite part about Saturday events is when I get to chat with other volunteers. I met many professionals working in the public service field such as lawyers, paralegals and translators. I also met people working for the United Nations, other CUNY students like myself, owners of nonprofit organizations as well as professionals from my own community."

Q.  If you're not from NYC, where are you from originally?
"I am originally from Haiti and I left my country to settle here in New York about four years ago. I arrived in New York in 2007 and worked as a Home Health Aide to support myself. In 2008, I enrolled at The City College of New York (CUNY) to pursue a Bachelor's Degree in Management and Administration. I am currently a graduate student in Public Administration."

Q. What’s one of your most memorable moments as a volunteer with Citizenship Now?
"My most memorable moment was when they paired me up with a Legal Aid Society attorney for a special case. Our client was a pregnant women asking whether or not she should apply for TPS considering her immigration story. In her mid thirties, the women came to the United States at 8, never went back to Haiti and feared deportation, while both her mother and husband are U.S. citizens. The attorney tried to figure out all possible scenarios. It was really difficult and sad because her case got extremely complicated as the lawyer was questioning her past. We finally discovered that she got into this situation because she was misguided by friends and her first attorney who was not scrupulous and to whom she spent thousands of dollars. She could not apply for TPS."

Q.  Has your knowledge of immigration law improved because of the time you have spent volunteering with us? What have you learned?  
"I did not know anything about immigration law when I first started volunteering. I learned more about it by attending the annual Call-In training, using the immigration law book and talking with immigration professionals. I learned a lot about adjustment of status and the many ways one can obtain legal permanent residency, for instance, the visa lottery which I had never heard of before."

Q.  Tell us about yourself--do either you or a family member have a personal immigration story?
"My mother and I received legal permanent residency sixteen years ago, when I was a child. However, I have seen many of my friends struggle because they had student visas and couldn't work. Others were undocumented or were going through the asylum process."

Q.  In what ways has volunteering with Citizenship Now! impacted you personally?
"Volunteering with CUNY Citizenship Now! inspired me to be more involved in the immigrant community I belong to. It showed me that community service is important and I understood how a few hours of my lifetime can impact someone else. I also discovered that immigration law is a really interesting path as it affects millions of people directly or indirectly."

Q.  Outside of work and volunteering, tell us about some special hobbies or interests that you have?
"Outside of volunteering, I love group excursions as I have participated in many of them, and I enjoy sightseeing as well. I also love trying food from different cultures."

Q.  What does community mean for you?
"For me, community is a group of people sharing some common characteristics and interests while often supporting each other."