A little over a year ago, Brooklyn Public Library patron Kim Best received the shock of her life. She was, for all intents and purposes, an illegal immigrant — terrifying news for the mother of a nine-year-old son.
She had lived in New York City since her family immigrated here in 1981, when Kim was only six years old. In the United States, foreign-born children of immigrants are eligible for derivative citizenship through a parent until the age of 18. But Kim’s mother waited until 1996 to complete her own naturalization, when Kim was an adult and no longer covered under the law. So while Kim had always thought herself a citizen, she was not.
Not knowing where to turn, Kim came to the library. There, she discovered free classes, study guides and legal advice that help hundreds of immigrants pursue U.S. citizenship every year. With the support of her son, who quizzed her nightly on American history, and after participating in an 11-week workshop at Central Library, Kim became a naturalized citizen on Oct. 14, 2015. It was one of the best days of her life.