Group working to get immigrants to become citizens

(Source: KAIT-TV)
(Source: KAIT-TV)

PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) - Members of one organization are working to spread the word that becoming a United States citizen is easy.

The Northeast Arkansas organizer for the Arkansas United Community Coalition, David Nunez, said he's part of a campaign to educate immigrants.

"We're launching a campaign called Naturalize Now," Nunez said. "AUCC is part of a big coalition. So, we're trying to get people to become citizens. Anybody that has been a legal permanent resident three to five years could qualify. Three years married to an American or five years single. They can come and get screened to see if they qualify for citizenship."

Nunez spent Thursday afternoon at the Paragould Community Center, screening potential citizens.

"Today we are screening people," Nunez said. "We are going to give them a sheet that has all of the requirements they need. We're going to ask them a few questions. Because we work with Catholic charities, we only take simple cases. So, we ask them about their background and how long they've been a legal permanent resident. We ask them a few more questions. And then later, we make an appointment to follow up and start the process."

Nunez said the first step is getting screened.

"Today is more about screening and to see who qualifies," Nunez said. "And finding out how many people are interested in becoming citizens. I know, right now, there are 80,000 Arkansans that can qualify for citizenship. And so, if all of them can come together and become citizens there are a lot of benefits to it. They can run for office. They can run for city council. And many more other things they can get just for becoming a citizen."

Once the screening process is complete, the application process can begin.

Nunez said sometimes people feel money is a problem.

But he said they have the means to help with that too.

"We also have loans," Nunez said. "That we can use for applicants who don't have the money yet. Or they can pay in payments. Not having the money up front can be an obstacle that holds people back from applying. But we can help with that."

Nunez said their biggest issue is a lack of information.

"A lot of people don't know how easy it is," Nunez said. "Just the paperwork and how little evidence they need to become citizens. So, it's important for them to show up and get this kind of information. People think it's a big thing and it's hard. In reality, it's simple."

Nunez said he wasn't sure when or where their next citizenship clinic would be.

However, Nunez said their office is open to anyone.

"Anybody can come to our office," Nunez said. "You can just show up and get screened then. These are the opportunities where people can get talk to us one on one and find out about the resources and the opportunities. It's very important to take the next step and become a citizen. With citizenship, the skies the limit. There's opportunities and so many doors opened."

Nunez said because each situation is unique, there's no way to tell a person what they'll need beforehand.

That's what the screening process is all about.

To get them started with the information they need.

"Each case is different," Nunez said. "You can't pinpoint what they need. So, it's important for them to show up to events like this one so they can find out what they need in a specific case."

The Immigrant Resource Center is located at 911 Magnolia Road in Jonesboro.

To reach them, call (870) 680-2270 or log onto their website.

Copyright 2017 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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