HRC Blog

ya es hora ¡Ciudadanía! Coalition Holds Successful Citizenship Workshop in San Diego, CA

This post comes from HRC Diversity Program Associate Hyacinth Alvaran and Diversity Intern Michael Karakash.

A coalition of local and national Latin@; immigrant; lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT); faith; and business organizations came together on September 10th, 2011 at the Pilgrim United Church of Christ at 2020 Chestnut Ave. in Carlsbad, CA to hold a ya es hora ¡Ciudadanía! workshop that helped over 200 people interested in applying for U.S. citizenship.  With the support of approximately 100 volunteers, including members of various organizations, BIA-accredited representatives, and attorneys, over 100 N-400 applications were completed, empowering potential voters to become U.S. citizens.

At this free workshop, attendees learned about the benefits and eligibility requirements of becoming a citizen, received assistance in completing the N-400 application, met with immigration attorneys and BIA-accredited representatives to review their application, purchased their passport photographs, and obtained study materials to prepare for the naturalization interview.

Harrah’s Rincon Casino & Resort donated $1,500.00 to subsidize the cost of the naturalization application fee for ten eligible applicants at $150.00 each, which is a tremendous help because finances can often serve as a barrier to applying for citizenship. (The fee is $595.00 plus $85 for the fingerprint services, for a total of $680.00.) These ten applicants were chosen through a random drawing held after the workshop.  Winners ranging throughout the San Diego County included Enaida Arevalo (Oceanside, CA), Pedro Hernandez (Oceanside, CA), Olivia Nieves (San Marcos, CA), Miguel Maciel (El Cajon, CA), Josefina Arevaio (Oceanside, CA), Mariana Luna (Spring Valley, CA), Celestina P. Baez (San Marcos, CA), Dalinda Y. Lopez (Chula Vista, CA), Misladys Aballi William (Oceanside, CA), and Jose Luis Solis Calderon (Chula Vista, CA).

The event had a strong impact on all who attended, allowing volunteers to assist members of their community in securing basic rights.  Speaking about her experience of the event, Geri Rochino, the Diversity Co-Chair for the HRC San Diego Steering Committee, said, “I feel especially honored to have had the opportunity to work on the San Diego ya es hora event.  We had a strong coalition of local and national partners that all worked very hard to make this event successful.  By working together, HRC was able to build strong relationships with a number of various groups outside of the LGBT community including several religious, educational and Latino organizations as well as even Homeland Security whom HRC worked with to set up a training session for volunteers at the San Diego LGBT Center.  I truly believe that reaching the next level of LGBT equality is so dependent on our ability to build relationships with other justice-based organizations.  For example, one of our volunteers from Pilgrim United Church of Christ told me that during the event, one of the volunteers asked her why HRC was involved with this event.  After a long heart-felt conversation, she told me that the young man started to realize that there was indeed a need for society to fight for LGBT equality.  Finally, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the large number of volunteers that showed up at the event, including our attorneys who devoted the entire day to ensure that every application underwent a thorough legal review.  Without the help from these volunteers, we would never have been able to help such a large number of people that day.”

This workshop was part of the ya es hora ¡Ciudadanía! campaign, a historic Latino civic participation campaign that represents the largest and most comprehensive effort to incorporate Latinos as full participants in the American political process.  In California, there are 2.3 million legal permanent residents eligible to become U.S. citizens. Since 2007, the national campaign has helped more than 1 million immigrants realize their dream of applying for U.S. citizenship. The national effort is lead by Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the NALEO Educational Fund, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), and the Spanish-language media companies Entravision Communications, impreMedia, and Univision Communications Inc., with active participation by over 400 local organizations, including the organizations in this San Diego coalition. These organizations are Equality Alliance of San Diego County; Harrah’s Rincon Casino & Resort; Human Rights Campaign; JOB (Justice Overcoming Boundaries); NALEO Educational Fund; Pilgrim United Church of Christ; San Dieguito Adult School; State Farm Insurance; Univision San Diego; UURISE (Unitarian Universalist Refugee and Immigrant Services and Education); and U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS).

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