HRC Blog

HRC with Proyecto Inmigrante and Ya Es Hora in Dallas

This post comes from HRC Dallas steering committee member, Fernie Sanchez.

On Saturday, July 30th seventeen HRC volunteers joined forces with Proyecto Inmigrante to conduct the tenth Ya Es Hora Citizenship Workshop in the North Texas area.  These dedicated volunteers arrived at Nuestra Senora del Pilar Catholic Church at 7:00a.m. on a Saturday morning to participated in a two hour training session offered by Proyecto Inmigrante prior to the start of the workshop.  Even though the workshop was not scheduled to start until 9:00 that morning, there was already a line of people forming around the building upon our arrival.

HRC had the largest number of volunteers present that Saturday morning. Once the training was over, the pace quickly picked up as we all went into high gear to get the room ready for participants needing assistance with their N-400 application for naturalization.  The room quickly filled up and Proyecto Inmigrante staff did a great job at keeping things organized and moving.  While the pace was hectic, the mood was positive as volunteers and participants exercised great patience and even humor during the application process.

As a social worker, I get to experience the helping process on a daily basis.  However, for most of our volunteers, this is not the case, so in that regard the helping process at the workshop was a positive experience for them.  The only drawback that morning was that the parish priest requested that HRC volunteers take off their HRC tee-shirts.  The Executive Director of Proyecto Inmigrante, Douglas Interiano, protested the request, and did his best to dissuade the priest. However, in the end, most of our volunteers and I decided that it would be best to comply with the priest’s request. Although many of us were shocked and offended by it, especially our straight allies volunteering with HRC, we decided to make this decision in the best interest of the many applicants waiting for assistance. While our tee shirts may have posed a problem for the priest, they certainly did not pose a problem with workshop participants as evident by the positive comments many of us received during and after the workshop. They were grateful we were there, and they were not bothered by the fact that we were there on behalf of an LGBT organization.

Fifty workshop participants were initially expected, but we ended up processing over 100 N-400 applications within a two-hour period.   “We could not have pulled this off without the assistance of HRC volunteers,” said Douglas.

Douglas and I have agreed to discuss how we can work together differently for the next workshop that we partner on in order to create a safer and more positive experience for all of our volunteers. On the national level, HRC staff is also working with the staff of NALEO (National Association of Latino Elected & Appointed Officials), one of ya es hora’s national coordinating partners, to make sure that this incident doesn’t happen again, and the staff at NALEO have been very responsive and open to our ideas.

Although we had a negative experience in an overall positive workshop, this experience helped us realize that we have many allies – from our straight allies who volunteered with HRC; to our local and national partners in the Latino/a community, Proyecto Inmigrante and NALEO; and to the applicants who expressed their gratitude for our help. Winning the hearts and minds of the community. That’s why we participate in these workshops!

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