By Aaron Blevins, 7/12/2012
Blessed Sacrament hosts workshop to assist immigrants
To assist legal permanent residents in the Los Angeles area in obtaining U.S. citizenship, several organizations are teaming up to provide a citizenship workshop in Hollywood on July 28.
Hosted at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament, the event is the result of a collaboration between LA Voice PICO and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), as well as church officials.
The ya es hora ¡Ciudadanía! Campaign seeks to assist the 2.3 million Americans who are eligible for U.S. citizenship with their naturalization applications. Volunteers will help with passport photos and application and documentation packaging. Applications will also be reviewed by an immigration attorney.
“It’s been a great effort for us,” said Miguel Huitzil, of NALEO, during a planning meeting this week. “People will line up the night before. That’s how much they need the service.”
NALEO launched the campaign following immigrant mobilizations in 2006. Huitzil said the organization had noticed more and more that legal permanent residents were not taking the next step to citizenship.
“They just kept renewing their green card and renewing their green card,” he said.
The organization started with the goal of motivating more than 1 million eligible individuals to apply for citizenship, and approximately 1.4 million did by the end of 2007. Huitzil said the program’s success was evident in the 2008 Presidential Election, which witnessed 1 million new voters.
He said Southern California has approximately 2 million legal permanent residents — more than Texas and Arizona combined. While the program was created with Latinos in mind, it has also helped individuals from Europe, Asia and other countries, Huitzil said.
Alma Morales, of LA Voice, said the program falls in line with the goals of PICO, the national organization that seeks to improve the quality of life of all residents in urban, suburban and rural communities.
“We want to have the power in communities for change,” she said, adding that, in citizenship, there is power. “We see that this is very important for the community.”
The importance has been confirmed by the response. Huitzil said several events have filled up before they even opened, and organizers expect the Hollywood event to be no different. However, those who cannot receive services due to space will be offered resources to help them with their applications, he said.
“They didn’t leave empty-handed,” Huitzil said of past participants.
Yolanda Brown, the parish life director of Blessed Sacrament, said the idea behind the event is to facilitate the application process and “walk with those immigrants.” She said the church has a tradition in social justice advocacy work.
“This is one of those opportunities, and it is in line with the rich history and tradition that’s been here for over a century,” Brown added.
Opened in Hollywood in 1904, the church has long been a “very welcoming and inclusive church community,” she said. Blessed Sacrament also has parishioners who could benefit from the workshop.
“Those who desire to walk this path — we want to be with them and stand with them as they become American citizens,” Brown said.
She said citizenship offers the power of a voice through the voting process, a “beautiful blessing and privilege for an American citizen.” Applicants would like to help shape a country they want to be a part of, Brown said.
The church and LA Voice have advocated together in past years to improve the quality of life of area residents. Brown said the organizations helped pass the Responsible Banking Ordinance, which requires banks to reveal foreclosure and loan data information. The two also worked together on affordable housing initiatives.
Brown said events such as the citizenship workshop further underscore the commitment of Blessed Sacrament and LA Voice to their communities.
“We have our hands and feet engaged in the community,” she said. “We are all in this together.”
The citizenship workshop will be held from 9 a.m. to noon at the church, 6657 W. Sunset Blvd. The event is free, but space is limited to 300 participants. For information, call (888)839-8682 or visit ciudadania.yaeshora.info. Volunteers are also needed for the event. To volunteer, call the church at (323)462-6311.