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Fifty thousand new citizens

Braving the elements, more than 300 immigrants are expected Saturday at the 1,000th citizenship workshop sponsored by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights under the state’s New Americans Initiative.

Recognizing the milestone, Governor Quinn will join in, assisting a legal permanent resident in filling out a citizenship application and witnessing a U.S. citizenship oath ceremony.

The workshop takes place from 9 a.m. to noon — with Quinn expected at 11:30 a.m. and the oath ceremony set for noon – on Saturday, February 5, at the Arturo Velasquez Instititute, 2800 S. Western.

His participation will make Quinn one of over 13,000 Illinois residents who have volunteered nearly 125,000 hours for outreach, legal services, tutoring in English and preparation for the citizenship test, said Catherine Salgado of ICIRR.

Since its launch in 2005 the NAI program has directly assisted nearly 50,000 Illinois residents in becoming citizens and provided citizenship information in 23 languages to 425,000 residents.  The program is a partnership between the state and ICIRR, working with dozens of community, ethnic and social service groups.

Of the state’s 1.8 million immigrants, 783,000 are naturalized citizens and 340,000 are currently eligible to apply for citizenship, Salgado said.  In addition to voting rights and the ability to travel without time limits, citizens earn more, she said, with median income increasing by 55 percent when a person becomes a citizen.

Quinn will speak following the citizenship ceremony, and ICIRR will unveil a statewide agenda calling for support for immigrant and refugee services and English education programs.

The agenda also calls for fair implementation of health care reform; state legislation limiting dragnet deportation programs; and an Illinois DREAM Act to provide private scholarship funds and legal driving certificates to undocumented youth who stay in school or pursue military service.

A new Neighbor-to-Neighbor volunteer campaign is planned to recruit native-born and naturalized citizens in 50 communities to tutor children and help immigrants learn English and gain citizenship, Salgado said.

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Category: immigrants


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