BAY RIDGE — For 16-year-old Yuliya Lesif, becoming an American has been a dream that almost didn’t come true a few years ago when she was initially denied citizenship.
The Bay Ridge teen, who attends Midwood High School, fell victim to the bureaucratic red tape that almost dashed her dreams.
That is until her family appealed to U.S. Rep. Max Rose, who represents parts of Brooklyn and Staten Island. Rose immediately realized that the family did everything right and that it was a systematic failure that had prevented Yuliya from earning citizenship.
Rose called American citizenship the greatest honor that one can receive. “The Lesiv family (Yuliya spells her last name differently than the family) did everything right, checked all the boxes, and just wanted to finally ensure their daughter Yuliya could live out her American Dream,” Rose said.
“Yet due to a system processing error, paperwork went to the wrong address and Yuliya’s application was denied. The family was devastated as they thought the door to their dreams of citizenship for Yuliya was closed forever. Thankfully, we were able to reopen that door and make this dream come true. Because all too often, government fails people. All too often, hardworking families just looking to do the right thing and make a better life for their children feel like they’re being forgotten. Well today we get to tell a different story, that we finally got it right,” added Rose.
The Lesiv family, whose roots are in the Ukraine, filed a N-600 application on behalf of Yuliya in February of 2017. After submitting the application, the family moved to another neighborhood in Brooklyn. They followed all procedures and filed all necessary paperwork with USCIS to update their mailing address.
However, due to a systems failure at USCIS, the address change paperwork was never processed, and important information and documents were delivered to the wrong address. This error led to the application being left incomplete, and eventually, denied. Upon the family reaching out to Rose in February 2019, his office was successful in working with USCIS to reopen the case, provide all necessary paperwork and applications, and help ensure the application was approved.
So Friday, Sept. 13, proved to be a lucky day for Yuliya, as she was finally sworn in during a naturalization ceremony held at Rose’s Bay Ridge office.
USCIS District Director Lee Bowes administered the oath of allegiance after which Yuliya was presented with a certificate of American citizenship.
“I’ve waited a very long time for this, and after being declined, I was afraid it would never happen,” said Yuliya. “I’m just so thankful for Congressman Rose and everyone who worked so hard to make this day a reality. It’s a dream come true.”
Rose said that Yuliya’s story inspired him and that he was especially impressed with her mother Myroslava Lesiv. “What she did speaks to what is so remarkable about this country,” Rose told this paper, “that Myroslava’s dream is of a better life for her daughter and she sees that here in the United States of America. So for all of our warts and all of our scars, all of our failures and all of our inadequacies, this remains the greatest country on earth; it remains the place where people look on as the shining city on a hill to pursue their dreams.”
Rose explained that he was deeply grateful to have had the opportunity to play a part in this story. “To see Myroslava standing there watching as her daughter received her citizenship tells you everything, not only about how great this country is, but what this country’s true potential is,” he said.
Yuliya said that this day was a long time coming. “I’m thankful and I’m really grateful for this moment, because I never would have thought I would be standing in this office taking the oath and becoming a U.S. citizen,” she added.