Workshop Helps Immigrants Begin Path Towards Citizenship - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Workshop Helps Immigrants Begin Path Towards Citizenship

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by Aundrea Cline-Thomas

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Middle Tennessee is home to a growing number of immigrants. Thousands are eligible for citizenship but don't know where to start. Now agencies are coming together to help make the process a little easier.

They may speak different languages but their desire to become a United States citizen needs no translation.

"That's why I came here to the United States," El Salvadorian immigrant Marvin Hernandez said, "to become successful and help out the country."

The path to citizenship can sometimes be as difficult and as long as their journey to the states.

"I was afraid because all of these questions are a little bit complicated and I needed help," Hernandez added.

"I'm originally from Canada," Stephanie Teatro, Director of Advocacy for the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) said. "And I moved to the United States with my family and it took me fourteen years to become a citizen."

Saturday, TIRRC and the Legal Aid Society tried to make things a little easier with a citizenship workshop at Casa Azafran. Lawyers are among the many volunteers providing free advice and helping immigrants begin their paperwork.

"In Davidson County alone we have 21,000 people who are eligible for citizenship but it's an incredibly difficult, long process," Teatro said. "It's very expensive."

One slight mistake could set back the process that already takes at least six to nine months.

"They do a background check," Attorney Chay Sengkhoumany with the Legal Aid Society explained. "You have to learn English and take a civics test."

It's a process Hernandez knows all too well.

"(Immigration officials) called me. My interview is going to be June 3rd so I'm excited to become a citizen," he said.

He attended one of these clinics earlier this year and now is back to help translate for others. Now  Hernandez wants to help others, just like him, who long for the day when they can proudly call themselves an American.

For more information:

TIRRC

www.tnimmigrants.org/citizenship

Legal Aid Society of Middle TN and the Cumberlands

www.las.org

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services

www.uscis.gov

Email: acline-thomas@newschannel5.com
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