Organizations motivate, invite and help Latinos to become citizens

For the first time in history since its founding in 1981, El Rescate, the non-profit organization that defends the rights of immigrants, allied itself with various entities and lawyers to help permanent residents of Los Angeles who have the possibility of American naturalization.

El Rescate, the Los Angeles Teachers Union (UTLA), the American Federation of Teachers (CFT), the El Rancho Federation of Teachers in Pico Rivera, NALEO and the offices of attorney James Edwards Blancarte are part of ?Together We Rise Citizenship Clinic?, a citizenship clinic that will take place on August 12.

But, before the clinic, those responsible for this effort will have three informative workshops on July 17, 26 and 29, and the citizenship clinic on August 12. Only those who agree to collect all the information that will previously be requested can attend this last event.

Members of the team that will organize the citizenship clinic on August 12.

Photo: Impremedia

According to a report on the status of immigrants in Los Angeles County, there are about 768,000 adult immigrants eligible for naturalization in this region of California who have not taken that step toward citizenship. A large proportion of these adults are Latino (70% or 537,600) and one-fifth are Asian or Pacific Islander.

Two Mexicans take the first step

Almost half of the Angelenos eligible to naturalize are from Mexico, like María Esparza, 58, and her daughter Magaly, 32, both born in the state of Aguascalientes.

?I kept telling her, become a citizen, mom!? Magaly told La Opinión, who was brought to the United States when she was barely three years old. ?I had not started the process, although we had already planned to speak with a lawyer, but when we received a message that there would be free advice, we decided to come.?

In addition to her poor English skills, Mrs. Esparza justified her delay in starting the process toward citizenship "because life in this country is just working and working, and there is no time for anything."

Ana Cecilia Torres (i), an assistant at El Rescate, provides information to Ana Lucía Hernández.

Photo: Impremedia

Mother and daughter immigrated to the United States in 1994. They obtained permanent residence, due to a case of domestic violence, but have not become citizens.

?I have to become a citizen of the United States and I promise to study English,? said Mrs. Esparza, after being motivated by the lawyer James Edward Blancarte, during the information session at the UTLA offices.

For her part, Magaly considered that it is necessary for her to obtain citizenship in the event of a return to the White House by former President Trump.

I don't want to be deported if the laws change with that bad man [Trump] that took away help from people? Magaly explains. ?He was very ignorant and said that all Mexicans were rapists and criminals.?

Elizabeth Maravilla Portillo and Santos Portillo have already started the naturalization process.

Photo: Impremedia

Older people are waiting for the exam in Spanish

Salvador Sanabria, executive director of El Rescate, stressed that the importance of becoming a US citizen allows you to receive some privileges and gives access to federal social services, in addition to being able to participate in the civic process of the adoptive nation.

However, he recognized essential factors for which people have not been encouraged to naturalize.

One of them is the fear of an examination -mainly in English- by the authorities of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS),

?People delay, hoping that an exception will be made to take the exam in Spanish,? declared Sanabria. ?Hence, that is reflected in the number of petitioners for naturalization in the N-400 form.?

In fact, more than 80% of the approximately 20,000 clients that El Rescate has served in recent years and who apply for naturalization are people over the age of 60, and an average of 95% have passed the exam.

In 2022, more than one million people became US citizens, one of the highest numbers since 1997, the year for which data is available from USCIS. Last year the backlog in the application process was also reduced by 60%, according to a USCIS report released in December.

A decision that affects a lifetime

Naturalization efforts undertaken by the Rescue, UTLA and the American Federation of Teachers (CFT) aim to fill at least 100 applications.

?We know the history of El Rescate's work with the Central American and Mexican community in Los Angeles and that is why we decided to join them,? said Juan Ramírez, vice president of the UTLA American Federation of Teachers. ?We have done these efforts to help naturalization applications before in key states [para las elecciones] Like Texas and Florida?

"We look forward to seeing people take the last step they need to become US citizens," he added. ?In Los Angeles there are almost a million people eligible, and it is in everyone's interest to do so so that they no longer miss the opportunity to have their voice heard in all the elections and in decisions that are made that could affect their lives and the lives of others. their families and children?

The opportunity presented to obtain free help caught the attention of the couple Elizabeth Maravilla Portillo and Santos Portillo, born in San Miguel, El Salvador.

She, 63, and he, 61, were motivated by their daughter Vanesa del Carmen, an LAUSD teacher to prepare and begin the process of US citizenship.

"Honestly, I hadn't asked how to do the paperwork," Elizabeth said. We already have the residence [permanente] and that document is the only one that protects us; That is why we come to the workshop, to orient ourselves on the documents that we are going to need.

Among the 768,000 adult immigrants eligible for citizenship living in Los Angeles County, about 77,000 are from El Salvador. A smaller percentage are from Guatemala, the Philippines, China, Iran, Vietnam, Armenia and other nations.

?We want to teach the importance of citizenship to our community partners; You can have a permanent resident card, but if something happens to you, they can even deport you to the land where you were born, but if you are a citizen that can't happen," said Lilia Carrión, president of the El Rancho Federation of Teachers -Pico Rivera .

?If you are a citizen, you can have a voice and make changes in the way laws that impact your life are passed at the local, state or federal level.?

For his part, the lawyer Blancarte told La Opinión that he and other lawyers want to help as many people as possible in the process of applying for citizenship.

?Our goal is for them to be the ones who decide their future and not someone else,? he stressed. ?If there are changes in the immigration laws in the future, they would not be in danger of deportation.?

Informative workshops:

Day: Monday, July 17, 2023

Time: 5:00 p.m. 8:00 pm

Venue: North Park Academy of the Arts

4450 Durfee Avenue

City: Pico Rivera, CA 90660

Day: Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Time: 5:00 p.m. 8:00 pm

Venue: LA County Federation of Labor

2130 W. James W. Wood Blvd.

City: Los Angeles, CA 90006

Day: Saturday July 29, 2023

Time: 10 am ? 2:00 p.m.

Place: Church of Our Lady Queen of Los Angeles (Olvera Square)

535 N Main St.

City: Los Angeles, CA 90012

Citizenship Clinic:

Day: Saturday August 12, 2023

Time: 9 am ? 5:00 pm

Location: United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA)

3303 Wilshire Blvd.

City: Los Angeles, CA 90010

Note: It will be exclusively for people who attended one of the informative workshops and who have all the necessary documents for the application.

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