Chicanos Por La Causa help immigrants make their way toward citizenship


Jose: LAST YEAR THERE WERE 10 SUCH DAYS AND THIS YEAR ONLY 4. CHICANOS POR LA CAUSA IS OFFERING INTEREST FREE, ONE YEAR LOANS FOR IMMIGRANTS WHO CAN'T AFFORD TO PAY FOR CITIZENSHIP APPLICATION FEES. JOINING ME TO TALK ABOUT THIS IS NATALIA RENCERIA CEBALLOS. SHE IS A BUSINESS ADVISOR WITH CHICANOS POR LA CAUSA "CPLC" AND MARTIN CORDOBA, ALSO A PRESTAMOS BUSINESS ADVISOR WITH CPLC. WELCOME TO HORIZONTE. SO THIS PROGRAM IS BEING FUNDED BY THE SLIM FOUNDATION?

NATALIA: CORRECT. THE CARLOS SLIM FOUNDATION HAVE BEEN A PARTNER IN THIS AS WELL AS MARISOL CREDIT UNION WHO IS HELPING US ACTUALLY DELIVER THE LOANS TO THE COMMUNITY. AND WE ARE HOPING THIS IS JUST AN INITIAL PARTNERSHIP AND WE CAN ABSOLUTELY CONTINUE THIS PARTNERSHIP BASED ON THE NEED IN THE COMMUNITY.

JOSE: FOR THOSE OF OUR LISTENERS, CARLOS SLIM IS THE WEALTHY MEXICAN BUSINESS MAN WHO HAS BEEN INVOLVED IN A NUMBER OF CHARITABLE ACTIVITIES IN THE UNITED STATES. WHY THIS PARTICULAR ONE? WHAT IS THE NEED THAT EITHER HE AND/OR CPLC SEE IN THIS AREA?

NATALIA: SO WHAT WE HAVE FOUND IS MORE OR LESS THAT IS AN ESTIMATED 200,000 IMMIGRANTS IN OUR COMMUNITY WHO ARE ELIGIBLE TO MOVE FORWARD WITH CITIZENSHIP, ACTUALLY GAINING CITIZENSHIP IN THE COMMUNITY. WHEN WE WERE LOOKING TO FIND OUT WHAT IS THE BARRIER OR WHAT ARE THE BARRIERS AND WHY ARE PEOPLE NOT MOVING FORWARD WITH THE PROCESS ONE WAS A QUESTION OF LANGUAGE. CAN I FIND THE RESOURCES IN THE LANGUAGE I NEED TO UNDERSTAND HOW TO MOVE FORWARD WITH THE PROCESS AND PRIMARILY IT WAS AN ECONOMIC ISSUE. IF WAS COST $725 TO MOVE FORWARD WITH THE APPLICATION PROCESS TO GAIN CITIZENSHIP AND THAT IN ITSELF HAS BEEN BARRING A LOT OF PEOPLE FROM MOVING FORWARD, SO THERE WAS AN OPPORTUNITY TO RELIEVE THAT BARRIER AND SO IT WAS WHY NOT, LET'S GO AHEAD AND DO THAT.

Jose: SO MARTIN NOW THAT THE FINANCIAL PART IS BEING ADDRESSED NOW AND IT IS UP TO YOU TO GET PEOPLE INVOLVED. WHAT HAS BEEN THE EXPERIENCE SO FAR?

MARTIN: IT HAS BEEN A WONDERFUL RESPONSE ESPECIALLY WITH A COMMUNITY THAT HAS NO CLUE HOW TO START. WHENEVER WE HAVE THE PHONE LINES RINGING ALL DAY THEY JUST ARE VERY BLESSED THAT WE HAVE THE RESOURCES AVAILABLE FOR THEM TO GET THAT ASSISTANCE FROM STEP ONE WHAT DO I DO TO ALL THE STEPS NECESSARY TO GET THEM TO CITIZENSHIP CLASSES SO THEY ARE READY ALL THE WAY THROUGH THEIR CITIZENSHIP APPLICATION.

JOSE: WHAT KIND OF PROMOTION HAVE YOU DONE TO MAKE IT KNOWN THESE LOANS ARE AVAILABLE?

MARTIN: WE HAVE BEEN REACHING OUT TO DIFFERENT ORGANIZATIONS. SPANISH SPEAKING MEDIA AND ENGLISH. WE HAVE BEEN COVERING DIFFERENT OUTLETS SO WE CAN PROMOTE ALL THE ENTIRE PROCESS.

NATALIA: YOU CAN ALSO FIND MORE INFORMATION ON OUR WEBSITE AS WELL. IT IS JUST CPLC.ORG/N400 AND ALL THE INFORMATION ON THE PROCESS, REQUIREMENTS, ETC ARE THERE AS WELL. WE HAVE BEEN PROMOTING THAT WEBSITE AND ALSO A LOT OF PEOPLE JUST LIKE TO CALL AND BE ABLE TO SPEAK WITH SOMEONE IN REAL TIME TO GET THEIR QUESTIONS ANSWERED AND YOU HAVE SEEING HIM RIGHT HERE. MOST CALLS ARE ANSWERED BY MARTIN AND HE IS ABLE TO FUNNEL PEOPLE TO THE CORRECT RESOURCES.

Jose: MARTIN, ARE YOU TARGETING A CERTAIN -- I KNOW THE PROGRAM WAS OPEN TO ALL, EVEN THOUGH MOST OF THE PEOPLE YOU ARE ENDING UP DEALING WITH ARE SPANISH SPEAKERS OR SPANISH ORIGIN, BUT ARE YOU TRYING TO MAKE SURE IT IS PEOPLE WHO ARE AT THE STAGE WHERE THEY ARE READY TO APPLY OR DO YOU TAKE ALL COMERS?

MARTIN: WE TAKE ALL COMERS. AND THEY HAVE DIFFERENT BROAD ASPECTS. WE HAVE IN MOST CASES PEOPLE THAT DON'T HAVE A CLUE HOW TO START EVEN IF THEY QUALIFY.

Jose: SOMEBODY CALLS UP SAYING I HAVE HEARD ABOUT THIS, I WANT TO BE A CITIZEN WHAT DO I DO.

MARTIN: EXACTLY. WE HAVE THAT AND THEN PEOPLE WHO HAVE THE APPLICATION READY AND JUST NEED THE FUNDING.

Jose: IN TERMS OF - YOU MENTION CITIZENSHIP CLASSES. YOU REFER PEOPLE TO PLACES WHERE THEY CAN GO THROUGH THAT PROCESS?

MARTIN: WE HAVE BEEN WORKING WITH ENTITIES WHO HAVE THE FREE CLASSES AVAILABLE TO ANYBODY TO SHOW UP AND TAKE THEM.

Jose: AND THEN THE PROCESS ITSELF. WE HEAR THAT ONE OF THE REASONS WHY YOU DON’T HAVE PEOPLE COME FORWARD IS THAT IT TAKES YEARS TO QUALIFY. SO IS THE INTAKE YOU DO PART OF SEEING WHETHER THEY ARE AT THE POINT WHERE THEY CAN FILE FOR CITIZENSHIP?

MARTIN: PRETTY MUCH WE HAVE A FREE BASIC CONVERSATION TO SEE WHERE THEY ARE AT IN THE PROCESS AND ONCE WE SCREEN THE PEOPLE WHO QUALIFY WE TAKE THEM TO THE NEXT STEPS OF A CITIZEN WORKSHOP AND WHICH WE WORK WITH ORGANIZATIONS OR OUR OWN THAT WE DID LAST WEEK ACTUALLY.

JOSE: NATALIA, THINGS MAY BE CHANGING BUT I KNOW IN THE PAST WHEN WE TALKED ABOUT ENCOURAGING PEOPLE TO GET CITIZENSHIP AND THESE ARE PEOPLE WHO HAVE THEIR WHAT WE CALL A GREEN CARD, THEY ARE HERE LEGALLY, THEY HAVE THEIR RESIDENCY, AND THEY ARE SAYING WHY WOULD I BOTHER? I AM FINE. I AM NOT SUBJECT TO DEPORTATION. I DON'T KNOW NEED TO DEAL IT WITH THAT.

NATALIA: ONE OF THE PRIMARY ELEMENTS WE TRY TO HELP PEOPLE SEE IS THAT NO MATTER WHAT STATUS YOU HAVE, EVEN IF YOU ARE COMPLETELY LEGAL, YES, NOT IN THREAT OF ANY KIND OF DEPORTATION, YOU WILL ALWAYS HAVE TO THINK ABOUT RENEWING THAT AT SOME POINT IN TIME. THIS IS NOT A PERMANENT STATUS. ONCE YOU GO THROUGH THE PROCESS OF CITIZENSHIP YOU ARE A CITIZEN OF THIS COUNTRY. YOU HAVE TO DO QUITE A LOT TO NOT HAVE THAT STATUS. AND ABOVE AND BEYOND THAT, I THINK ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT ELEMENTS IS THAT YOU NOW HAVE THE RIGHT TO VOTE. VOTING IN THIS COUNTRY IS HAVING YOUR VOICE HEARD AND IT IS UNFORTUNATE THAT WE STILL HEAR A LOT OF PEOPLE SAYING WHAT IS THAT GOING TO DO? ONE VOTE? RIGHT? WHAT IS THAT GOING TO DO? BUT IT IS LIKE ANYTHING, IT IS A COLLECTION OF DROPLETS AND ONCE YOU HAVE MANY IN THE SAME BUCKET OR SAME ROOM THERE IS POWER THERE. THERE’S POWER TO POWER TO THAT COLLECTIVE VOICE. WHY NOT HAVE THAT ABILITY? WITH ALL OF THE RESOURCES WE NOW HAVE, WHY NOT JUST TAKE THAT STEP AND MOVE FORWARD? ESPECIALLY NOW THERE IS NOT A FINANCIAL BARRIER IN PLACE BECAUSE WE DO STILL HEAR A LOT OF PEOPLE, $725. DO I DO THAT? PAY FOR MY GROCERIES OR MY RENT.

JOSE: GOOD POINT. THIS IS A LOAN. THEY DO HAVE TO PAY IT BACK.

NATALIA: EXACTLY.

JOSE: AND WE ARE ALMOST OUT OF TIME BUT MARTIN, WHAT ARE THE TERMS OF THE LOAN?

MARTIN: THEY NEED TO BE 18 AND OVER, RESIDENT TO QUALIFY, SIX MONTHS OF INCOME -- IT CAN BE PAY STUBS AND TAXES AND MOST IMPORTANTLY THE N400 APPLICATION.
JOSE: AND THERE’S NO INTEREST AND THEY HAVE TO PAY IT BACK.
NATALIA: $57 A MONTH.
JOSE: WITH THAT, WE ARE OUT OF TIME. THANK YOU BOTH SO MUCH FOR JOINING US TO TALK ABOUT THIS WONDERFUL PROGRAM. THANK YOU FOR WATCHING. FOR "HORIZONTE" AND ARIZONA PBS, I AM JOSÉ CÁRDENAS. HAVE A GOOD EVENING.

Chicanos Por La Causa is launching its Citizenship Loan Program to help immigrants cover the citizenship application cost, as well as aid them in the steps that follow.

The citizenship application costs $725 to complete and turn in, money which many can’t afford to spend at the moment. With help from the Slim Foundation and Marisol Credit Union, CPLC is able to give out loans to the community so they can become citizens.

“What we have found is that more or less there is an estimated 200,000 immigrants in our community who are eligible to more forward with citizenship,” says Natalia Renceria Ceballos, business coach for CPLC. “When we were looking to find what are the barriers and why people weren’t moving with the process, one was a question of language and primarily it was an economic issue.”

People are able to call in or contact CPLC through their website to receive any kind of information regarding their status. Martin Cordoba, also a business coach with CPLC, says most of their calls are from people who don’t know where to begin or if they are even qualified. Many callers are also reaching out to find a way to pay for the application.

“It’s been a wonderful response especially with the community who has no idea how to start,” Cordoba says. “We have the phones ringing all day. They feel very blessed that we have the resources available for them to get them that assistance.”

CPLC also helps people get in contact with different community organizations that offer free citizenship classes. Once a coach and caller have a conversation on where they are in their process and they meet the qualifications, they are directed to a citizen workshop.

“One of the primary elements that we try to help people see, no matter what status you have, you will always have to think about renewing that at sometime,” Ceballos says. “It’s not a permanent status. Once you are a citizen, that’s it. Above and beyond that, you now have the right to vote and voting in this country means having your voice heard.”

To be qualified for a loan, the person must be at least 18 years old, a resident, provide six months of income and have their N400 application. For more information visit cplc.org/N400.

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In this segment:

Natalia Renceria Ceballos: Business Coach, Chicanos Por La Causa

Martin Cordoba: Business Coach, Chicanos Por La Causa

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