Now we can watch a sitcom about immigrants!

Today, we are going to talk about a new comedy on NBC called “Sunnyside”!  It stars Kal Penn (the tall guy from the Harold and Kumar movies) as Garrett Modi, a down-on-his-luck former city council member who is booted out of office.  Somehow, he is hired by a motley crew of immigrants to be their “citizenship test tutor.”



Before we go any further, I know that some of you might be wondering about my qualifications to critique a show about immigrants in Sunnyside, Queens.  Well, I have watched “Coming to America” at least twenty times and 90% of that movie happens in Queens.  (Fun factoid:  Not only is Queens the largest of the five boroughs, it is also the most ethnically diverse.)  Also, when I first moved to New York City, I lived in Woodside, which is two stops away on the illustrious 7 line from Sunnyside.  (I lived near the 61st Street stop, which is an express station.  When I first moved in, I thought “This is great!  I will be in Manhattan in ten minutes!”  Then, during my first week of work, I learned that the express train was very full by the time it reached Woodside.  Which then forced me to discover the benefits of the local.  Like how my commute to work would take an extra 30 minutes.) 


Right off the bat, I would just like to say that I was very impressed by the determination of this “citizenship exam study group.”  Clearly, they are taking this exam very seriously.  They meet regularly, they consult a lot of books, they quiz each other.  And they hire Garrett to teach them how to pass the exam at the staggering fee of $100 per hour . . . and they handed him FIFTEEN GRAND up front!  That’s a lot of tutoring!!!!!  For that kind of money, they can just pay off the immigration offic . . .  no no no, don’t do that.  That’s illegal.

Folks, here’s the skinny.  There is a civics/history exam.  There are ten questions.  You need to get six right and you pass.  If you don’t pass, you get a chance to study some more because there is a re-test in 60 days.  And if you don’t pass that time, you have to submit a new N-400 application.  And you should use the extra time to study.

Oh, where do the questions come from, you might ask?  Here you go!  USCIS provides the study materials FOR FREE.

Also, don’t pay anyone to “tutor” you for the test.  Many cities have free resources available, such as these courses through the Los Angeles Public Library.


In Episode One, one of the students is arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (also known as “ICE”).  Nobody seems to know why Drazen was arrested, or where he has been taken.

Lawful permanent resident status in the United States is not exactly “permanent.”  Being convicted of certain types of crimes, such as domestic violence, theft, fraud, firearms offenses, drug possession, or drug trafficking (to name a few) will likely lead ICE to initiate proceedings to take the “green card” away and send immigrants back to their home countries.

While we the viewers still don’t know why Drazen was arrested by ICE, one can try to find him by using ICE’s detainee locator.

Also, I will take this opportunity to encourage naturalization if you have young children who are lawful permanent residents.  If the parent becomes a US citizen, the children automatically become US citizens.  I have written about this before here.


In Episode Two, Garrett trails one of his students Hakim and observes him handing a large bag full of cash to a man in the middle of the night on a deserted street.  Hakim tells him that he was paying his immigration lawyer.  When Garrett confronts the man in his office the next day, the lawyer says that he likes to meet his clients “where they live” as a matter of convenience to the clients.  (Meeting clients at convenient locations?  Great!  Late at night on a street corner?  Seriously!?!?)  Later, Garrett and Hakim go to the office . . . and find it completely emptied out.  No worries, Garrett later finds the lawyer handing out his business cards inside the USCIS office to potential clients.  (An ethical violation, by the way.)

Sadly, when there is a group of people who are unfamiliar with the language and the customs of their new home country, there will be be unscrupulous people who seek to take advantage of that vulnerability.  The internet is crawling with examples, but I’ll save you the search if you click here, here, and here.

In addition to shady immigration attorneys, one would do well to avoid non-lawyers who claim to be able to represent people.  In some communities, they are known as “notarios.”  In other communities, they are called “travel agents.”  In many cases, the safer bet would be with a reputable attorney.  USCIS seeks to aid immigrants to avoid being scammed.


Are we going to find out why Drazen got taken away by ICE?  Are we going to find out if Garrett’s doctor sister and the Ethiopian taxi driver (who was a doctor in his home country) start to share chemistry notes? And if everyone passes their citizenship test in the season finale, what is Season Two going to be about?  Will this show make it to a Season Two?  Want to talk to an immigration attorney about something other than Romben’s DVR list?  Contact us.


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