Becoming a United States citizen grants lifetime benefits to immigrants. Upon becoming a citizen, a person acquires rights such as full participation in social security, the possibility of petitioning for family members to immigrate, and the right to participate in democracy through voting. As citizens, immigrants get US passports, the protection of the US Government abroad, and dual citizenship if their country of origin allows it.
Cities for Citizenship, a national initiative, says that 8.8 million permanent residents are currently eligible for citizenship, 52% of whom are low-income. According to this initiative, “Their naturalization would provide access to better jobs (up to an 11% increase in personal earnings), academic scholarships, and a myriad of other benefits.”
The reasons why many immigrants do not complete the naturalization process include lack of money, time, or knowledge. The fact that many Latino immigrants delay their naturalization affects the whole Hispanic community in the United States, because while many of the political decisions that could be made in favor of the communities are based on the number of voters in the country, only citizens can vote.
It is our duty and right to vote for our preferences. To vote is to make our voice heard as members of a society. Therefore, communities like ours should not procrastinate and leave aside the responsibilities of naturalizing as US citizens and of voting.
The recently formed non-profit organization Enlaces Alaska, with help from the Alaska Community Foundation, will provide naturalization clinics for members of the Anchorage’s community who wish to become US citizens and meet the requirements. The clinics will be held in the Lunney Center of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, on May 20, August 19, November 18, 2018. During 2019, one more session will be held on February 17.
In the clinics, applicants will be helped to fill out applications and prepare the required documents for naturalization. Counseling will be provided to determine with certainty if a person qualifies for citizenship, and to prevent problems in the process. In addition, the cases will be reviewed to find out if the applicant qualifies for exemption from immigration costs or from the English or citizenship exams. The legal advice and filling of the applications will have a cost of $200.00. Filing the application to USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) costs $725.00.
Immigration attorneys Lara Nations and Nicolás Olano will supervise the citizenship drive. They have experience in this process and are donating part of their time to keep the cost of the legal service for naturalization as low as possible.
For more information about Enlaces’ naturalization clinics, firstname.lastname@example.org