Students to help immigrants

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    With the help of student volunteers, hundreds of immigrants will soon be able to call themselves U.S. citizens. A citizenship workshop on Dec. 1 will give students an opportunity to volunteer and experience something new – the citizenship application process.

    The workshop will be at the Tarrant County College in Fort Worth from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and is being sponsored by Proyecto Inmigrante ICS, Inc., said Carlos Valera, a junior political science major.

    The workshop is part of a campaign called “Ya Es Hora Ciudadania,” which means “It’s Now Time,” said Kelley Escobar, a junior political science major. This campaign and workshop were created to encourage immigrants to become citizens so they can vote and express their opinions, Escobar said. She said the campaign has been going on for about three years.

    Escobar is one of the volunteers who will be at the citizenship workshop again this year. She said she volunteered at the workshop last year and noticed that she saw only two TCU students there and she wanted to change that.

    “We’re trying to get TCU more involved,” Escobar said. “This is a good volunteer opportunity, can help the community and can boost students’ resumes.”

    Escobar said volunteers will help people fill out their applications for citizenship as well as make the applicants feel more comfortable if they need to talk to someone.

    Proyecto Inmigrante ICS, Inc. citizenship workshops are hosted in major cities in the U.S., Valera said.

    Valera said he volunteered at two other citizen workshops in Dallas and is now organizing volunteers on campus with Escobar.

    “The workshop is becoming prominent now because the fee for applying for citizenship increased from about $300 to $600 this past July,” Valera said.

    Through advertising on Hispanic TV stations and publications, the organization was trying to promote citizenship before and after the fee increased, Valera said.

    Valerie Martinez-Ebers, a political science professor, is the volunteers’ faculty sponsor for this workshop. She said she helped Escobar and Valera, who decided on their own to help the organization, host a table in the student center to get students to sign up to volunteer.

    “This is important because the process is complicated and expensive,” Martinez-Ebers said about the citizenship application process.

    Martinez-Ebers said the perception of immigrants not wanting to stay in America legally is not true. They just need help to become citizens, she said.

    Escobar said the organization prefers bilingual students because most of the people at the workshop will speak Spanish and little English. She said they also prefer Spanish, pre-law and political science majors because this is a topic that would probably interest them the most and would be a good experience for them in their field.

    Martinez-Ebers said other students from Tarrant County College and the University of Texas at Arlington will be volunteering.

    Many volunteer and charity organizations, as well as immigration attorneys, will be at the workshop, Escobar said.