According to the Dept. of Homeland Security, there are currently 13.1 million legal permanent residents living in the United States.
Here in Houston, we have hundreds of thousands of legal residents seeking citizenship who do not know where to begin or how to navigate the process.
To help this large portion of the Houston community, LINC is partnering with Bonding Against Adversity Incorporated as they offer classes and workshops to residents in the Aldine/Greenspoint community.
Citizenship Preparation classes were offered June 28-August 9, 2012 and a Citizenship Assistance Workshop will be administered October 27 at LINC's Greenspoint Mission Center.
Marianna Sanchez, Director of Bonding Against Adversity Inc., said that many legal residents are scared or simply do not know how to navigate the forms, tests and interviews that are part of the process of becoming a citizen.
"There are people who have been living here for 15-20 years and still don’t know the process or how to prepare," she said.
"Sometimes they dont know what they are able to do unless someone shows them how."
Knowing that there are not enough programs to accommodate everyone who has need, Sanchez partners with various organizations to set-up shop in various areas throughout Houston. Working with community centers, Catholic Charities, LoneStar College, local churches and organizations like LINC, Sanchez hopes to help as many people as possible in multiple neighborhoods throughout the city.
In Aldine, where LINC partners with Sanchez, the majority of legal residents are Latino and come from places like El Salvador, Columbia, Venezuela, Honduras, Puerto Rico. Sanchez said that each of these cultures presents different challenges to citizenship.
"At times, we have to help people who know spoken English, but dont know how to read and write," said Sanches, "others do not know English, because they are older 75 or 80, and they can take the test in their native language, they just did not know that was available."
Teaching English comprehension, U.S. history and helping individuals with the application process, Sanchez and Bonding Against Adversity aim to close the gaps that separate people from citizenship and full integration in the U.S.A.
She said, "It’s a journey, but it is a real joy to see individuals become citizens."
Currently, there are 25 people in the Citizenship Preparation class and Sanchez expects anywhere from 200-700 individuals at the workshop in October where volunteers will assist applicants in preparing their packets to send into the U.S. government.
Rev. Mark Junkans, Executive Director of LINC Houston, commented on how this partnership is essential to LINC's mission in the city and said, "One of the most stabilizing factors for a family is their immigration status, enabling them to truly call this community their permanent home."
He said, "Together with Bonding Against Adversity, LINC Houston is helping families achieve their dream of becoming U.S. Citizens. In this way, our communities are stronger and our families have a brighter future and we are fulfilling our biblical mandate to welcome the stranger."