India-born stem cell researcher can vote in November thanks to Weill-Cornell’s participation in citizenship workshop

April 23, 2016


By Erica Pearson |

NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpiRitu Kumar spends her busy days doing stem cell research at Manhattan’s Weill-Cornell Medical College. She left her native India for New York City more than a decade ago and wanted to become a U.S. citizen, but kept putting it off, thinking it would be too time consuming.

But after her employer hosted a citizenship workshop, Kumar, 38, is set to take her naturalization interview and civics test on May 4.

“It looks like I will be able to vote in November,” said Kumar, who is a Bernie Sanders supporter.

The workshop was coordinated by New American Workforce, which helps employers offer free classes and other assistance to immigrant workers who want to become U.S. citizens. The program, backed by the nonprofit National Immigration Forum, is running in eight cities. It has been operating in New York for nearly a year, and has signed up 13 employers in the city, including Weill-Cornell, and helped out hundreds of workers.

Kumar, an assistant professor, took an afternoon workshop at Weill-Cornell last December. Kumar was one of about 100 employees who attended one of the workshops, according to organizers.

Before joining Weill-Cornell’s faculty, Kumar graduated with a PhD in her hometown of Lucknow and immigrated to New York in 2004 to attend a post doctoral program at Mount Sinai. Weill-Cornell, where she has worked for seven years, sponsored her green card.

When she got an email from her employer’s immigration department about the New American Workforce program, she signed up right away. She was surprised at how simple the process of becoming a citizen actually is.

“If they hadn’t held the seminar, I probably would have waited five years,” she said. “It was really, really helpful.”