Volunteer of the Month

Volunteer with citizenship now

Each month we will highlight one of our outstanding volunteers. Below you will find the current Volunteer of the month as well as a list of volunteers who we have profiled in the past. Click on the photos to read more about them.



Roman Yushuva Roman Yushuva: Volunteer Corps Member


Q.  What do you do for a living?
A.  "I am a licensed attorney in New York and Florida – I have my own practice focusing on Tax law – I work as a legal consultant for various companies, and I also volunteer with several nonprofit organizations."

Q. You are a tax law attorney. How did you get interested in Immigration Law?
A.  "A former colleague of mine, Kathleen Tonkovich, referred me to this organization, and to Catholic Charities, where she volunteers. I never suspected I would be involved with immigration law; however, once I started volunteering here I enjoyed it so much that I decided to continue. Another reason is that I am a former refugee from Uzbekistan, from its capital city of Tashkent. I was not yet a teenager when I came to the United States, fleeing from religious and political oppression. As I began volunteering, and doing immigration-related work, it felt more personal to me and I realized that I should do more."

Q. So, the first time you had anything to do with Immigration law, besides personal experience , was through your volunteer experience with CUNY?
A.  "Yes. I have never taken an immigration law course or studied it outside of school, but once I began volunteering I was so interested, that I began to learn more about. So that’s how it started."

Q. Are you thinking of taking classes or has the experience in any way changed your idea of what you do as an attorney?
A.  "Yes. I have found that the immigrant community is very much concerned about taxation not just in the general sense, but primarily as to how it would affect their path to becoming a U.S. citizen. I realized how immigration law and tax law are connected and that by incorporating that understanding into practice, we could better assist our clients in counseling them. This is especially true today with immigration reform on the horizon."

Q. As a tax attorney you get into more complicated issues than accountants do, right?
A.  "In addition to volunteering with CUNY Citizenship Now! and with the Refugee Resettlement Office of Catholic Charities, I also volunteer with New York Cares and their partners, like ARIVA, Make the Road, and Fifth Avenue Committee. During this past tax season we helped a large number of immigrants and low-income taxpayers file their income taxes. A number of these individuals are undocumented workers, and it is very common to find that they file their return as Single, instead of filing as Married (either filing Jointly or Separately) when they’re actually married. That may potentially cause a lot of problems in the future when they decide to naturalize. So the problem that I saw there is that the tax portion of the service was focused on the short-term goal of filing the tax return, instead of looking at the long-term effect of how it’s going to affect their future when they apply for citizenship. I’ve heard similar stories and complaints from other attorneys who are struggling with this challenge in their practice."

Q. That sounds very much like what happens to an individual who has a criminal problem and then is advised to do something by the criminal attorney without thinking of the consequences for the immigration case.
A.  "Immigration law, strangely enough, connects with so many other fields of law and not every attorney is an expert in every aspect of the law, but we have to be aware of how a particular decision can affect other areas of law and make sure to best service the client. In addition to filing single, for example, there is also the ITIN issue for undocumented workers to file taxes... To begin with, they first need to have a job or show income, but they don’t have a social security number; so, they create a fake one just so that they can be hired. At the end of the year, when they get their W-2 forms, what ends up happening is that they file income tax for the first time. With that form, they request an ITIN number, but they have a false Social Security number essentially, they are breaking one law in order to comply with another law. I think Congress has to find a way to mitigate that situation, and to find a way to let people get a job and work without necessarily violating the social security law in order to comply with the tax law. Those are just simple examples that I’ve seen happening in this field."

Q. You mentioned a little bit about your personal immigration story. You said you fled your country because of religious persecution. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
A.  "I was 12 years old when I came to this country. I began learning English in my home country but it wasn’t nearly as much as what I needed. I had seen what my parents had struggled through. For example my dad had to get a job at some place making $50 dollars a week and, even then, at the end of the week, they wouldn’t pay him. The [employer] just fired him because he didn’t want to pay him. Volunteering with other organizations, I’ve met refugees who are extremely intelligent, who have graduate degrees in their home countries, and who are forced to accept any kind of job here for very little pay, for which, in the end, they might not even get paid, (…) because some feel like they can be exploited, simply because they are immigrants. Unfortunately in my community, that happens a lot, and I’m really glad that as a volunteer I can at least help people and point them in the right direction and inform them a little bit about their rights."

Q. For how long have you volunteered with us?
A.  "For about a year and a half."

Q. How many events have you attended?
A.  "I..I don’t really know."

Q. You lost count already! Through your year and a half of volunteering, what would be one case that you feel touched your heart in some way and why?
A.  "I would say our annual call-in events, because at that event we receive a lot of phone calls and I would say that for 99% of those, (…) people are so grateful that when we finish [the conversation], it usually ends up with a blessing. A person could be from any part of the world, and it always ends up by expressing their heartfelt gratitude for what it is that we do. It reminds me of how my grandparents would bless us as kids for something that we did well and that really comes across and really connects with me. Other than that, during application assistance events we experience a variety of circumstances and some people might think that we are working for the government, or that we are here to interrogate them but that’s not the case. We’re here to find what problems they might encounter if they do go to an interview, if they apply [for citizenship]. And we’re here to help them prevent any problems."

Q. Outside of work and volunteering what are other hobbies or interests that you have?
A.  "I like to play guitar, that’s my passion. I actually would love to be in a band again. I enjoy traveling. I like photography a lot. At this point, I am more focused on building my practice, and learning more about my trade because school only gives you the basics. There is so much to learn. I have been volunteering and working, and I have very little time for hobbies, [though]."

Q. How well do you play the guitar?
A.  "I had a band in college, in undergrad. It was for a very short period because I had a lot of free time. But now I enjoy playing open mic or with friends but that’s all."

Volunteer Profiles

James Howard

James Howard
July 2014

Kathleen Tonkovich

Kathleen Tonkovich
June 2014

Olu Ajayi

Olu Ajayi
May 2014

Geovanni Gutierrez

Geovanni Gutierrez 
March 2014

Sonia Mills

Sonia Mills 
February 2014

Ann Marie McNamee

Ann Marie McNamee 
January 2014

2013 Volunteer Profiles >>

Shaunee Morgan

Shaunee Morgan
December 2013

Rafael Tassy

Rafael Tassy
November 2013

Camissa Celestin

Camissa Celestin
October 2013

Melina Lito

Melina Lito
September 2013

Angela Cooper

Angela Cooper
August 2013

Aydee Joya

Aydee Joya
July 2013

Sanya Paul

Sanya Paul
June 2013

Sainslot Belizaire

Sainslot Belizaire
May 2013

Bosondo Braun

Bosondo Braun
April 2013

Tomas Escotto

Tomas Escotto
March 2013

Jesus Guzman

Jesus Guzman
February 2013

Nubia Espana

Nubia Espana
January 2013

2012 Volunteer Profiles >>

Fanny Lauby

Fanny Lauby
December 2012

Celeste Tejeda

Celeste Tejeda
November 2012

Dea Shkupi

Dea Shkupi
October 2012

Darrion Maye

Darrion Maye
September 2012

Ana Davila

Ana Davila
August 2012

Camilo Aparicio

Camilo Aparicio
July 2012

Yiu Fai Chu

Yiu Fai Chu
June 2012

Lyson Bazile

Lyson Bazile
May 2012

Elizabeth Aviles

Elizabeth Aviles
April 2012

Diana Arreaga

Diana Arreaga
March 2012

Carla Rabinowitz

Carla Rabinowitz
February 2012

Johanna Bonny

Johanna Bonny
January 2012

2011 Volunteer Profiles >>

Karin Wolman

Karin Wolman
December 2011

Mimo

Mimo Boulefrekh
November 2011

Karl Gluck

Karl Gluck
October 2011

Bashkim Musabelliu

Bashkim Musabelliu
September 2011

Mabel Bajer

Mabel Bejar
August 2011
Currently Staff Member at Citizenship Now!

Thomas Marsh

Thomas Marsh
July 2011

Cezanne Jones

Cezanne Lyte
June 2011

venus

Venus Bernudez
May 2011

jorge

Jorge Rodriguez
April 2011