Citizenship and Immigration Helping the Community
November 21, 2012 | Chicago, IL
Chicago, IL—November 6, 2012, marked an important date in the evolution of our country. Historically, minorities in the United States have been politically marginalized and, at times, have not voted due to the belief that their vote would not count. However, in this year’s presidential election, Latino constituents accounted for 10% of the overall votes received nationally. This unprecedented turnout ultimately helped propel President Obama to a second term in office and was largely the result of mass efforts by Latino organizations, such as the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), to register voters and prevent disenfranchisement. Now, NCLR and other Latino organizations are demanding federal solutions to fix the nation’s broken immigration system and sending a strong message that they will support candidates who have committed to pushing immigration reform forward.
Erie’s Citizenship & Immigration program watched the outcome of the election closely, because we knew that it had the power to directly impact our work in the community. Erie currently provides Citizenship Education and Immigrant Legal Services to help our community members realize a piece of the American Dream. Through our Citizenship Education program, we help our participants study for the Civics and Language tests necessary to be approved for legal citizenship, also known as naturalization. Our highly trained and culturally competent BIA-accredited representatives also help eligible community members file applications for naturalization, family-based immigration, and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Erie’s legal services empower the Latino community by helping to create a larger pool of voters, unifying families, and enabling individuals to have full rights in the country where they live, work, and raise their families.
Thanks to the hard work of the Citizenship & Immigration team, Erie House was recognized by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) in 2011 and can now provide legal advice and represent immigrants in applications filed with United States Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS). This means Erie House can now give legal consultations on immigration benefits, as well as independently file cases on behalf of petitioners. The impact of BIA recognition can be felt by the community because anyone that is in need can now come to our BIA-accredited representatives to seek help in settling their immigration status, reuniting their family here in the United States, or applying for citizenship.
Since 2011, Erie’s Citizenship & Immigration program has helped over 1,500 participants by educating them on U.S. civic matters and helping individuals apply for U.S. citizenship. Although our participants are primarily from Latin-American countries, Erie also serves clients from countries as diverse as Lebanon, Ghana, and Ukraine. Many of these individuals have been living in the United States for more than 20 years and have finally achieved their dreams of becoming U.S. citizens.