Imagine having worked hard to go to school, followed your passion, and reached a place in your career where you can help others, only to have it potentially stripped away. That is what is already happening to some of the 325,000 immigrants in this country who are recipients of Temporary Protected Status (TPS).
By Laura Vazquez, Program Manager, Immigration Initiatives, NCLR
NCLR Affiliates have a long history of assisting eligible permanent residents in applying for citizenship. For decades, our Affiliates have worked to integrate America’s newcomers by helping them learn English, apply for citizenship, and then assisting them with registering to vote so that they can fully participate in our democracy.
One such Affiliate is Erie Neighborhood House. Erie was originally founded in 1870 as a settlement house that served immigrants in Chicago. When Erie’s work began, Chicago’s immigrant communities were mostly Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish, and German.
Fast forward to 2017 and Erie is still working to incorporate immigrants into the strong communities that contribute to the vibrancy of Chicago. Its English classes are now made up of immigrants mainly from Latin America who came to Chicago for a better life as previous groups of immigrants have done.
By Agatha So, Policy Analyst, Economic Policy Project, NCLR
Building wealth is essential for Latinos to achieve financial prosperity today, and is essential to the prosperity of generations to come. That’s why NCLR works with nearly 300 community-based Affiliates across the country to help Latinos improve their credit, increase their savings, and build wealth. The Washington, DC-based Central American Resource Center (CARECEN), a member of the NCLR Homeownership Network (NHN), is a pioneer in offering financial capability services for Latino families. As we continue Financial Capability Month, we’re proud to feature the work of Anabell Martinez, Housing Director at CARECEN.
Martinez and the CARECEN staff focus on how they can empower Latino families to make informed financial decisions. “For many clients coming to CARECEN for financial counseling, it’s the first time they hear about making a budget,” said Martinez. She understands the need for financial capability because she knows what kind of questions Latino families have about building wealth and the difficulties they face to protect what they have earned.
Day in and day out, NCLR Affiliates across the country provide services that assist permanent residents who are eligible to become citizens. Our Affiliates are the spiritual descendants of the original Settlement Houses, and in the case of NCLR Affiliate Erie House in Chicago, were founded as Settlement Houses. In addition to teaching English, they provide civics classes and assist in filling out the immigration forms in order to naturalize. They are responding to the challenges that immigrants who want to naturalize face by innovating and providing solutions that will encourage their clients to complete the multi-step process of becoming citizens.
For example, in Delaware, the Latin American Community Center (LACC) runs a Lifelong Learning Adult Education English as a Second Language program and a civics program that offers flexible scheduling, personalized placement, and availability of education classes during the day and evening at three locations. Recognizing that students have varied work schedules, LACC understands that flexibility is one of the keys to their students’ success. LACC is complementing the classes with a new program to assist individuals in filling out the application for citizenship.
Here in Washington the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN) takes advantage of its location in the nation’s capital to prepare students for the civics exam. As part of the 12-week citizenship class, students go on a field trip visiting national monuments and landmarks as part of their preparation for the naturalization exam. What better way to cement learning about U.S. government and history than by touring sites commemorating our country’s history! At the end of the class, students get a chance to prepare through a mock citizenship interview.
In California, where more than a quarter of the 8.8 million permanent residents who are eligible to naturalize reside, many NCLR Affiliates are providing citizenship classes and application assistance. In the Inland Empire, there are more than 250,000 permanent residents who are eligible to become citizens, and TODEC hosts regular workshops to assist individuals in completing the application. Recently, the group’s efforts were highlighted in a news broadcast. As you can see in the video (watch below), TODEC’s Youth Leadership Team is spreading out across the community knocking on doors to encourage eligible permanent residents to become citizens and urging citizens to register to vote.
Every door that they knock on is an opportunity to talk to people like José, who has lived in the U.S. for 30 years and is a permanent resident. He says that he has more desire than ever now in becoming a U.S. citizen so that he can vote as a result of being tired of politicians, such as Donald Trump, who scapegoat the Latino community to get votes. José says, “Donald Trump is hurting us but at the same time, he is pushing us to overcome—so that those of us who have the opportunity to vote, vote and those who don’t have that opportunity, become citizens.”
José echoes the call to action made by Janet Murguía when she said: “If we want hope to prevail in this time of challenge, we must act, and use every tool at our disposal. That includes, if you are eligible, becoming a citizen. If you are eligible, register to vote.”
Week Ending May 1
This week in immigration reform: NCLR Affiliates continue to ready for executive action implementation; NCLR continues our blog series on deferred action recipients; and House Republicans hold hearing on birthright citizenship.
Congressman Gutierrez and NCLR Affiliates rally to support executive action and comprehensive immigration reform: This Thursday, Congressman Gutierrez (D-Ill.) spoke to a crowd of nearly 200 at a high school in Washington, DC, touching on executive action, comprehensive immigration reform, and his own personal story. This was the Congressman’s 20th stop on his “Immigration Action National Tour,” a national undertaking to inform the immigrant community of the requirements and importance of DACA and DAPA. An article quotes Gutierrez saying, “It’s a huge task and the more people know, the earlier they know it, the better prepared they will be to take advantage. It’s my responsibility not only to demand action here in Washington, D.C., but to ensure to the best of my ability that it is implemented as broadly and as widely and as generously as possible.” Each event also includes volunteers who meet with those potentially eligible for deferred action to inform them about the process and to help get them ready to apply once the programs are no longer on a court-mandated hold. NCLR Affiliates, including Ayuda, CARECEN, Carlos Rosario, La Clinica del Pueblo, Latin American Youth Center, and Mary’s Center, co-sponsored the community town hall.
NCLR blog series features DACA recipient Carla Mena: This week’s installment of our ‘Living the American DREAM’ blog series profiles North Carolinian Carla Mena, who received DACA in 2012. DACA has enabled Carla to get a full-time job at Duke University’s Global Health Institute and to continue engaging her community through serving on the Wake Health Services Board of Trustees and working with NCLR Affiliate Youth Council at El Pueblo, Inc. While Carla has a temporary reprieve from deportation, her parents, and millions of others, don’t. DAPA, the program for parents of U.S. citizen children or legal permanent residents, is on hold. Our blog notes: “DAPA would provide opportunities for millions of skilled immigrants to work in fields where they can earn and contribute more. If DACA recipients have demonstrated in just three years what this program can do for communities like Raleigh, perhaps it’s time to consider something more stable. Carla’s story attests to the social and economic benefits of administrative relief, however, the overhaul of our immigration policies remain a critical task that Congress must undertake.”
House Republicans Convene hearing on birthright citizenship: This week, a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on whether or not birthright citizenship, the policy of granting U.S. citizenship to each child born on U.S. soil supported by the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, is good for America. In advance of the subcommittee hearing, civil rights leaders and members of Congress held a press conference to denounce the hearing. NCLR Deputy Vice President, Clarissa Martinez de Castro, said “It’s time to legislate responsibly; we want relief, resolution, and reform.” Democratic Members of Congress weighed in decrying the substance of the hearing, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) saying, “Evidently, there is no American principle too sacred not to be surrendered in Republicans’ race to pander to the most radical, anti-immigrant corners of their party. Today’s hearing is an appalling Republican effort to reverse one of our most fundamental constitutional guarantees: people born on American soil are Americans.” A Latin Post article quoted other Members of Congress, including Senator Menendez (D-N.J.), who said the hearing is a “painful reminder that we cannot and must not tolerate second-class citizenship, inequality, intolerance, and injustice. It is a humiliating reminder of the jingoistic insensitivity of the few toward multiculturalism and the changing face of America in the 21st Century.”
Week Ending February 7, 2014
This week in immigration reform: one week after releasing principles to guide work on immigration reform legislation, House Republicans are back to giving excuses on why they’re not working on a bill; a new poll finds that voters strongly prefer reform that features legalization and a road to earned citizenship over an enforcement-first approach; immigration authorities announce they are updating the N-400 form, used by those applying for citizenship, with new questions; and NCLR Affiliates push for action on reform by organizing calls into Congressional offices and meeting with their representatives, while an ELC group in Minnesota begins a fast to call attention to the need for reform. NCLR kept the community informed as always this week, with staff quoted in the Washington Post, New York Daily News, Excelsior, Takepart.org, the Latin Post, and the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.
—Republicans continue to give excuses for lack of action on reform. It’s been only one week since House Republican leadership released a set of immigration reform principles intended to guide work on legislation, and yet this week the GOP reverted back to giving the nation excuses in place of constructive action.
Putting politics above policy in this way is a bad move for Republicans. As poll after poll has shown, the American people want to see this issue addressed, and they want it addressed in a manner that includes a path to citizenship.
Some conservatives are pushing back on the false argument that Republicans may fare better if they avoid addressing immigration reform. Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, says: “We have a problem.” “[Speaker John Boehner] created an expectation in the public and with the Latino public. We expect him to follow though. But if they don’t deal with it, we will be handicapped, whoever is the candidate in 2016.”
—Poll shows voters think legalization with road to citizenship, not border security, should be top priority. A new CNN/ORC International poll confirms what poll after poll has found – the American public overwhelmingly supports immigration reform that allows aspiring Americans to earn legal status and pursue citizenship over reform proposals that prioritize border security and enforcement.
—Changes coming to naturalization forms. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on Tuesday that, starting May 5, 2014, those applying for citizenship will have to fill out an updated N-400 form that features new questions and is double the number of pages.
NCLR Affiliates, among them CARECEN, Hispanic Unity, and Latin American Coalition, will be hosting workshops and otherwise making sure that aspiring citizens apply using the old form while they can, and understand the changes coming to the application form. For more information and tools to learn about the naturalization process, please see www.citizenshipworks.org. Continue reading
By Ellie Klerlein, Deputy Director, Digital, NCLR
Yesterday, I got to do one of my favorite parts of the job. I attended a citizenship ceremony organized by NCLR Affiliate CARECEN and the USCIS Office of Citizenship at the Mount Pleasant Public Library in Washington, DC. During the ceremony, we welcomed new Americans from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bolivia, India, China, Colombia, El Salvador, Nigeria, and Iran. And it just seemed fitting to have the ceremony in Mount Pleasant. As Abel Nuñez, Executive Director of CARECEN put it in his welcome remarks:
“This is a community that embraces diversity, a place where the neighborhood Catholic Parish holds masses in 5 different languages, a place where you can eat an American burger, a Salvadoran pupusa, Peruvian chicken and Vietnamese pho on the same block.”