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Vicki Olson Carr | Immigrants in Chelan getting citizenship help

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An article in the Wenatchee World not so long ago reported that the majority of permanent legal residents (the people who hold “green” cards) think it is OK to maintain this status. Perhaps they feel this way because the citizenship application process is daunting, long and challenging. But there’s another way to think about this.

Living in this country without becoming a citizen is like borrowing a book from the city library. You can read it. You can enjoy it. You can learn from it. You can benefit from what’s inside, but you cannot own it. It isn’t yours. It belongs to someone else — to all of the taxpayers who have essentially placed the book in the library in the first place. If you don’t return the book, you have basically stolen it from us taxpayers.

If you enjoy the benefits of living in this country with its freedoms, its wealth, its first-class military protection, its free educational system, its social networks and protection—but you haven’t assumed the responsibility of voting to help maintain what we have—you are essentially “stealing” from those of us who do.

That sounds a little harsh, maybe, but that’s why I support the Northwest Immigrations Rights Project (NWIRP) organization and its efforts to help people become U.S. citizens.

Last December, two attorneys from NWIRP offices in Granger and Wenatchee held some well-attended workshops in downtown Chelan. An additional workshop was held on Saturday, Jan. 18 of this year.

The Friday, Dec. 6, meeting in the City of Chelan Council Chambers drew an audience of 40. Opening remarks about the citizenship application procedure were aimed at the students in the U.S. citizenship class taught by Jorge Lopez of the Lake Chelan School District.

On Saturday, Dec. 8, 19 individuals began filling out citizenship application forms. Several applicants hurried home to secure necessary documents and returned to continue the process.

A follow up workshop was conducted on Saturday, Jan. 18. Seven citizenship applications were finalized, and thirteen new citizenship hopefuls began the intricate application process. Individuals from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Canada and Australia were in the mix, along with two husband-and-wife teams.

Maybe the continued status of being a legal permanent resident is not comfortable, after all. These undocumented people are showing up early for events and often wait hours for their turn for free legal help and advice about citizenship, immigration and documentation issues and problems.

Governor Inslee’s recent signing of the DREAM Act bill now offers equal financial aid to foreign-born students who want to go to college or trade school. There are important qualifiers, such as being law-abiding, which help protect taxpayer funds and the American way of life.

The numbers seeking help indicate that citizenship work in the north end of Chelan County is vital. The gap between being a legal permanent resident or a U.S. citizen is real and wide. Maybe it is better to own the book, after all, and not just borrow it.

The United Methodist Women’s unit at the Lake Chelan United Methodist Church has funded this work so far. Questions or interest in supporting this effort should be directed to Vicki Olson Carr at (509) 888-6332, or Pastor Lilia Felicitas-Malana at (509) 682-2241.

Vicki Olson Carr lives in Chelan. She can be reached at vbcarr@nwi.net

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