International Rescue Committee

More from this show

The Phoenix Committee received a federal grant aimed at increasing the number of legal permanent residents who are preparing for and applying to become naturalized citizens of the United States.
Jennifer Doran, Family and Youth Services Program Manager, discusses the grant.
<a href=”””>International Rescue Committee Web site

Jose cardenas: The international rescue committee respond to the world's worst humanitarian crisis and helps people to survive and rebuild their lives. The IRC in Phoenix recently received a grant aimed at increasing the number of legal residents. Here to talk about this grant other immigration service, the IRC offers us Jennifer Doran, family and youth services program manager for the international rescue committee in Phoenix. Jennifer, welcome to "Horizonte."

Jennifer Doran: Thank you.

Jose Cardenas: And I guess what we should focus on, we said in the intro, increasing the number of legal residents, which are actually -- you're trying to increase the number of legal residents who become citizens.

Jennifer Doran: That's right.

Jose Cardenas: And how are you doing that?

Jennifer Doran: Well, what we've done is we've received a grant from the federal government this year to offer citizenship classes to refugees, and we also help them while refugees and other permanent residents, we help them apply for their naturalization application. So we offer classes that are five weeks in duration, and they last -- they're twice a week, and people can come and basically we have developed a curriculum that helps them to learn the difference -- different types of things that will be on the citizenship exam.

Jose Cardenas: Some of these -- some of the instruction is learning to speak English and read.

Jennifer Doran: Well, yes. Some of the instruction is around pronunciation and things like that. As you may be aware, to take the citizenship exam, people already have to be able to speak English, so our classes are offered fully in English. However, a lot of the things that are on the citizenship exam, things about American history and what not are things people who don't speak English very well or for whom English is their second language can be difficult. So we practice the words they'll need to learn how to say and the words they'll be talking -- using during their interviews.

Jose Cardenas: I think one of the things I found most interesting in reading the materials that your office provided is the diversity of the immigrant work group we're talking about at this moment.

Jennifer Doran: Yes. We have refugees coming into the United States rate now from all over the world. We see a lot coming in right now from Iraq, from Bhutan, Burma, Somalia, Cuba, so really all over the place where ethic conflict has happened or war, other types of atrocities.

Jose Cardenas: As I understand, Phoenix is one of the preferred location centers, so when these people come in the United States the government will send them to different parts of the country, and Phoenix is one of the prime spots.

Jennifer Doran: Yes absolutely. The federal government does determine who comes to the United States, and they decide which locations to send them and Phoenix tends to be a good place for refugees to come because of the relatively low cost of living, and the fact that there are often good entry level jobs for people coming in.

Jose Cardenas: Now what about just integrating into the community? How much of that is done by your group?

Jennifer Doran: Well, the international rescue committee offers all kinds of programs to help refugees integrate into life in the U.S. And those could be English language classes, we have micro lending programs, we help with first-time home buyer programs, we have health programs, so all kinds of things, the gamut of what would be required for somebody who is trying to learn a new culture and assimilate into a new way of life.

Jose Cardenas: We've got a phone number on the screen where people can call and get more information. I assume one of the concerns is in dealing with the school age children, particularly the older ones, who would probably be very difficult for them to get started in school. What do you do to help them?

Jennifer Doran: It is very difficult for some of the older children to start in school, especially if they haven't had any formal education prior to coming to the United States. What we do is we have a person who works closely with the local schools to help identify any issues the children may be having and to help provide extra support to families of children in order to help them through the assimilation process.

Jose Cardenas: I want to talk about some of the specifics of this particular grant that you just got. Give us a bit more of an overview of the IRC in Phoenix. How big it is, how many people, what do you do?

Jennifer Doran: Sure. Well the International Rescue Committee is a humanitarian organization. We work in 40 countries and in 22 U.S. cities. Here in Phoenix we have quite a large organization. We're about 55 staff, and we see about a thousand new refugees come into the U.S. each year. So we work with refugees typically up until five years after coming into the United States. And that's about the time they're eligible to apply for their citizenship.

Jose Cardenas: Now this particular grant is focused on citizenship. Why is that? Why is that considered so important in the people are already here legally. Why would you want to be concerned about them becoming citizens?

Jennifer Doran: Well, refugees have come from conflict zone, they've seen all kinds of untold horrors, they've lost their homes, their families, their friends, and of course they've lost the citizenship to the countries from which they came from. So coming here in the United States, becoming a citizen gives them an opportunity to be a part of a community again, to grow roots here in the United States, it gives them an opportunity to vote and to really become members of this community. They really appreciate America and what America has to offer them, and they want to be a part of our country.

Jose Cardenas: Now, presumably those would all have been incentives available to them before. What are you doing different here with this grant which is what, about $100,000?

Jennifer Doran: M-hmm.

Jose Cardenas: To really get people to do this?

Jennifer Doran: Well, I think the curriculum that we offer and the format we give the classes helps people to overcome some of the fear and intimidation that they might have in applying for a citizenship. And I think it's very common that people who because they don't speak English, because English isn't their first language, then they might be reluctant to take the exam. Another thing is that can sometimes be prohibitive is the fee and the fee associated with applying for citizenship. So we also have a spin-off and new -- an initiative to help a new American program where people in our community can make donations to help underwrite the cost of the citizenship application. And that really gives people in our community, Americans a way to become involved in the process as well.

Jose Cardenas: And how long is the process? There's the education part that you provide, but from the moment somebody starts the process of becoming a citizen until they get sworn in. How long does it take?

Jennifer Doran: It can vary. Right now we're seeing applications go through in about four or five months. From the time that they submit their application to the point of having their interview and being sworn in. But actually the process of becoming a citizen starts when people first come to the United States. There's all kinds of things that the application asks for and one of those things, for example, would be good moral character, so there's all kinds of things that refugee and other immigrants have to do when they come to the United States to maintain that ability to become a citizen when the time comes.

Jose Cardenas: Jennifer, good luck on the program. I know it's just gotten underway, but there's a lot to be seen in terms of how it turns out and hopefully we'll have you back on to talk about it.

Jennifer Doran: Great. Thank you very much.

Jose Cardenas: Thanks for joining us.

Jennifer Doran:Family and Youth Services Program Manager, International Rescue Committee;

Illustration of columns of a capitol building with text reading: Arizona PBS AZ Votes 2024

Arizona PBS presents candidate debates

Three main characters from mystery shows premiering this summer

It’s the Summer of Mystery!

Graphic with the words
airs July 19

Psyche mission

Former President Donald Trump

Republican National Convention: Four nights of coverage

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters

STAY in touch

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters: