Citizenship Clinic Draws Big Crowd In Wake Of Election - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Citizenship Clinic Draws Big Crowd In Wake Of Election

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By: Heather Graf

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The recent presidential election proved the power of the immigrant vote.
On Saturday, that had aspiring U.S. citizens here in the mid-state taking action.

The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition says there are about 20,000 legal permanent residents in Davidson County who are eligible to become U.S. Citizens, but have not yet done so.  Oftentimes, that's because they just don't know where to begin.

That's why the organization, in partnership with Justice For Our Neighbors and the National Partnership For New Americans, held a citizenship workshop on Saturday morning.

"With the election just taking place, there is a lot of momentum in place for people who are excited about that opportunity to vote, and excited to make their voice heard," said Adrienne Kittos, who is an attorney for the group Justice For Our Neighbors.  "And one of the most important ways that individuals can take part in the process, is to apply for their citizenship so they know they have that right for the next election."

Organizers say so many people signed up to take part in the workshop, some had to be turned away until the next one is scheduled.

"I just met a lady here we were helping, and she already asked me how can I volunteer for the next time. I can't believe all you're doing; this is great," said Anahi Guitierrez, the Citizen Coordinator for the Tennessee Immigration and Rights Coalition.

In the crowd is 24-year-old Gaby Benitez.  Originally from Mexico, she and her parents moved to the United States when she was six-years-old.  It has long been her dream to become a U.S. Citizen.

"Although it's been a very, very long journey, I'm one of the lucky ones, because everyone doesn't get that opportunity to be able to say that I will soon be a U.S. citizen," she said.  "And I'm definitely inspired even more, knowing that the Latino vote made such an influence in this year's election."

Naturalization can be a very expensive process, and Benitez says she still has to save several thousand dollars to make it happen.  Still, she says, Saturday was a first step.

Organizers say stories like hers show them the outreach is working.

"It's just maybe lack of resources and information and also people might be afraid to fill out a 10 page immigration form on their own, but with an extra push and the right education and information and all the legal resources we have, we are able to do it," said Gutierrez.

To learn more, or participate in the next citizen workshop, click here: http://www.tnimmigrant.org/.

 

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