Citizenship Clinic Draws Big Crowd In Wake Of Election
By: Heather Graf
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The recent presidential election proved the power of the
On Saturday, that had aspiring U.S. citizens here in the mid-state taking
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
"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
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.