New Americans program helps community members complete the path to citizenship

The Washington New Americans program receives state funding through Commerce to connect immigrants and refugees to the information and legal services needed to naturalize and exercise their civic voice. Following is the story of one woman’s successful journey to citizenship. It’s one of many similar tales, this one shared by La Casa Hogar, a nonprofit organization serving immigrant families in the Yakima Valley.

Maria came to the United States 27 years ago. She worked hard in the fruit fields and warehouses in the Yakima Valley to provide for her family. She heard rumors that after living in the U.S. for 10 years or more, an undocumented person could obtain a work permit and become a Lawful Permanent Resident. She soon sought the advice of an attorney in the Seattle area. The attorney told her that he could help her and her husband fix their status here in the U.S. and obtain work permits.

Maria had no knowledge of the immigration laws and fully trusted the attorney, so she began the process. Maria obtained a work permit that she had to spend thousands of dollars renewing every year and paying attorney fees. She continued her life in the U.S., went back to school to take English classes and became a Nursing Assistant. Maria never suspected that a few months later she and her husband would receive a visit at their places of work from two immigration officers presenting them with a deportation order.

Maria was devastated and thought her family would forever be separated. Her husband was deported soon after receiving the notice. Maria, then unemployed and in the care of five children, enlisted the help of many local attorneys and community members; she was granted lawful permanent resident status in 2010.

In the winter of 2015, as soon as Maria met the naturalization eligibility requirements, she started to attend La Casa Hogar’s citizenship classes in Wapato. With hard work, commitment and a vision for her family and herself, she completed her process and was sworn in as a U.S. citizen on January 29, 2016.

After overcoming such adversity, Maria was left with a profound desire to help her community overcome the many obstacles they face along the road to obtaining U.S. citizenship. Maria now funnels this passion into her role as a citizenship volunteer with La Casa Hogar.

“Now is my time to give back to my community,” she proudly said during her first day as a volunteer in the citizenship class.

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