Modern Day Settlement Houses Strengthening Communities Across the Country

Day in and day out, NCLR Affiliates across the country provide services that assist permanent residents who are eligible to become citizens. Our Affiliates are the spiritual descendants of the original Settlement Houses, and in the case of NCLR Affiliate Erie House in Chicago, were founded as Settlement Houses. In addition to teaching English, they provide civics classes and assist in filling out the immigration forms in order to naturalize. They are responding to the challenges that immigrants who want to naturalize face by innovating and providing solutions that will encourage their clients to complete the multi-step process of becoming citizens.

For example, in Delaware, the Latin American Community Center (LACC) runs a Lifelong Learning Adult Education English as a Second Language program and a civics program that offers flexible scheduling, personalized placement, and availability of education classes during the day and evening at three locations. Recognizing that students have varied work schedules, LACC understands that flexibility is one of the keys to their students' success. LACC is complementing the classes with a new program to assist individuals in filling out the application for citizenship.

Here in Washington the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN) takes advantage of its location in the nation's capital to prepare students for the civics exam. As part of the 12-week citizenship class, students go on a field trip visiting national monuments and landmarks as part of their preparation for the naturalization exam. What better way to cement learning about U.S. government and history than by touring sites commemorating our country's history! At the end of the class, students get a chance to prepare through a mock citizenship interview.

In California, where more than a quarter of the 8.8 million permanent residents who are eligible to naturalize reside, many NCLR Affiliates are providing citizenship classes and application assistance. In the Inland Empire, there are more than 250,000 permanent residents who are eligible to become citizens, and TODEC hosts regular workshops to assist individuals in completing the application. Recently, the group's efforts were highlighted in a news broadcast. As you can see in this video, TODEC's Youth Leadership Team is spreading out across the community knocking on doors to encourage eligible permanent residents to become citizens and urging citizens to register to vote.

Every door that they knock on is an opportunity to talk to people like José, who has lived in the U.S. for 30 years and is a permanent resident. He says that he has more desire than ever now in becoming a U.S. citizen so that he can vote as a result of being tired of politicians, such as Donald Trump, who scapegoat the Latino community to get votes. José says, "Donald Trump is hurting us but at the same time, he is pushing us to overcome--so that those of us who have the opportunity to vote, vote and those who don't have that opportunity, become citizens."

José echoes the call to action made by Janet Murguía when she said: "If we want hope to prevail in this time of challenge, we must act, and use every tool at our disposal. That includes, if you are eligible, becoming a citizen. If you are eligible, register to vote."

This was first posted to the NCLR Blog.