To the Editor:
On Tuesday, Sept. 17, our country celebrated Constitution Day and Citizenship Day. During Constitution Week, from Sept. 16 to Sept. 23, more than 18,000 people will become citizens during approximately 180 naturalization ceremonies across the country and overseas.
A naturalization ceremony is a joyous and moving event, which all Americans should have the opportunity to witness. Immigrants from countries near and far vow to support and defend the Constitution, recite the Pledge of Allegiance, and proudly wave the American flag. For most new citizens, getting to this milestone is the result of hard work and preparation.
At Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington’s Hogar Immigrant Services program, we provide lawful permanent residents with the support they need to be successful on their path to citizenship. It is a privilege to work with these aspiring citizens, and we now have an even greater ability to assist those in our local community through a generous grant we received from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
We are one of 40 organizations across the country to receive this competitive grant award. The funding we will receive, totaling approximately $250,000, will help support our citizenship preparation services for the next two years.
Over this next grant period, we will continue to provide citizenship instruction to over 350 lawful permanent residents in the Diocese of Arlington at three different sites in Falls Church, Sterling and Woodbridge. We will also be able to continue to provide naturalization assistance to over 1,700 lawful permanent residents via our monthly naturalization workshops, held at different locations across the diocese, where our legal staff and volunteers assist individuals in filling out the N-400 Application for Naturalization.
At Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington’s Hogar Immigrant Services, we have been providing high-quality ESOL and Citizenship instruction, as well legal immigration assistance, over the past 32 years. We serve all immigrants, regardless of nationality, religion, ethnicity or ability to pay. It is through private donations and grant opportunities such as this, as well as the tremendous amount of in-kind support we receive from over 400 volunteers, that we are able to continue to provide education and legal immigration services to immigrants at such a low-cost.
This is the fifth year USCIS has awarded grants to expand the availability of high-quality citizenship preparation services for lawful permanent residents across the nation. Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington’s Hogar Immigrant Services has received this grant for the past three consecutive years and with this new award, will continue to receive USCIS funding and support over the next two years. With this USCIS grant, our efforts will have a larger impact in helping some of our fellow community members achieve their dream of U.S. citizenship. By helping immigrants improve their English language skills and learn about our country’s history and government, and the rights and responsibilities that define citizenship, we will help them civically integrate—and that’s good for us all.
With civic integration comes participation—in service groups, school boards, homeowners associations, charitable organizations and many other worthy causes. This citizen-driven community participation is a hallmark of what makes this country great.
We at Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington’s Hogar Immigrant Services can’t help but feel an extra boost of patriotism this week as we recognize the achievement of those who will naturalize. We are proud to be a part of a process that is so important for our country and for our community and look forward to serving over 2,000 people as they pursue their own dream of becoming U.S. citizens.
Brooke Hammond Pérez, Director of Education Services Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington, Hogar Immigrant Services