New program gives free help to migrants on path to citizenship

3 million Mexican immigrants eligible to become U.S. citizens.

SAN ANTONIO -- 3 million Mexican immigrants who live in the United States are eligible to become American citizens, according to the most recent data.

A new program is offering free help to those going through the citizenship process.

Officials say most don't start the citizenship process because they don't know how to apply.

"We think that the best way to help Mexicans in the United States who are already here is to help them to be more and more integrated to the society," said Jorge Santibanez, Executive Director of Juntos Podemos (https://juntospodemos.org/about-us/).

To help the 3.4 million Mexicans in the U.S. who are eligible to become citizens, The National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Mexico's National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) along with the Carlos Slim Foundation (FCS) joined forces to create the "Migrant Support Program in the United States".

"This is a program where people can learn and resolve any doubts pertaining to the citizenship process," said Hector Slim of the Carlos Slim Foundation (http://fundacioncarlosslim.org/).

Program officials say too often families don't seek citizenship for several reasons, like the cost to become a citizen, fear of losing citizenship from their native country, or their inability to speak the native language.

"I think it's very important that the voices from Mexico tell Mexicans living here that it's ok," said Santibanez. "'I will be doing something wrong for Mexico if I become a citizen of the United States'. That's not the case anymore."

In a collaboration between the Carlos Slim Foundation and Chicanos Por La Causa (https://www.cplc.org/), they will finance the cost of migrants to acquire citizenship.

At the UNAM centers, the program will give free in-person training and support for migrants based on tools available at www.AccesoLatino.org.

"Today there are close 2 million people that have used Acceso Latino and the most popular area on the website is 'Become a Citizen' ['Ciudadanízate']."

AccesoLatino.org has information on free legal aid, how to get loans to pay for the citizenship process, psychological counseling via phone and WhatsApp messages, resources to get expert pro-bono legal advice and an online course that prepares migrants to pass the citizenship test.

"For the first time, in the 17 years that I've been here, this made me feel American, like I can be a United States citizen," said immigrant Miguel Leopoldo Alvarado Saldana, who residents in Seattle.

© 2017 KENS-TV


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