Approximately 2.4 million Legal Permanent Residents living in California will receive assistance from the Catholic Church on their path to citizenship.
Archbishop of Los Angeles, José H. Gómez and other Bishops of Southern California unveiled the initiative during a Catholic Immigration Summit at the Christ Cathedral on February 27th.
“Our struggle has never been about politics. It’s always been about people. People who are suffering and are exploited, people who are dying, ” Gómez said. “If we work this year to encourage naturalization and citizenship, that will make a real difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.”
Attending the call of Pope Francisco during the Holy Year of Mercy Catholic, the Catholic Church in California has started the initiative to assist in the naturalization process, those who have not grasped the scope of benefits to become citizens.
One example was Monica Ortiz.
Like her, thousands of people have not taken the step due to various factors, among which are the lack of money to pay for the application, the fear of immigration authorities and little or no English proficiency.
“For seven years I was afraid to apply for citizenship,” said Monica. “I was speaking little English, and also I did not think it was necessary for me to learn America Civics.”
But one day, she received a flyer on free citizenship classes at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in La Habra.
The classes, however, were in the city of Santa Ana. This meant three hours away from home once a week.
Besides, she and her husband Ricardo left alone their five children.
“While in the process I thought I will never pass the test,” Monica said. “But I was wrong! I did it! “. Monica sworn as US citizen, on June 23, 2015.
“That day was my birthday,” Ricardo Ortiz said. “My wife’s swearing was my best gift.”
The citizenship initiative is the latest step in the continuing commitment of the Catholic Church towards immigrants, including 11 million undocumented immigrants waiting for a comprehensive immigration reform.
“These efforts mean that we must be present among our brothers and sisters who are suffering,” said Monsignor David G. O’Connell, Auxiliary Bishop of the San Gabriel Region. “The Holy Father Francis has asked us to get out of our sanctuaries and to tell immigrants they’re not isolated, that they are not alone and help them is our mission.”
At the same time, a nationwide network of civic organizations is working to convince 8.8 million Legal Permanent Resident to become full U.S. citizens through the “Campaign New Americans” / http://newamericanscampaign.org/news/top-5-benefits-of-citizenship.
“We need to be honest with ourselves. Politicians in both parties have let us down and ignored our people’s suffering for their own agendas,” said Archbishop Gómez. “This is a moral failure and a human tragedy.”
“So many promises have not been fulfilled on both sides,” he added. “More than 2 million deportations in the last eight years alone. They were not criminals. The vast majority are just ordinary mothers and fathers. In some cases, children.”
This effort represents a new program that will offer practical assistance for legal residents seeking full citizenship. It will work in parallel with the Church’s ongoing efforts toward comprehensive immigration reform.
“As part of the Holy Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has called on the faithful to offer the profound mercy of Christ to the marginalized. The Church is uniquely position through our established immigration and naturalization programs to help millions of immigrants benefit from the fullness of citizenship and truly join our society. Through this first-of-its-kind initiative our many disparate programs and resources will be brought together to assist permanent residents in gaining citizenship,” said the Most Rev. Kevin Vann, Bishop of Orange and Chair of the Board of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network.
BENEFITS OF CITIZENSHIP
Get the citizenship document facilitates family’s integration and immigrants are protected from deportation. Current laws in the United States could lead to deportation for certain criminal convictions even if a person is a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR).
In addition, children under 18 who are LPR can automatically obtain citizenship when their parents apply for their naturalization; people obtain the right to vote; people can legally bring family members to U.S.; be eligible for federal jobs; to be elected to public office; be eligible for social services and programs, and even dual citizenship.
CALL TO ACTION
All diocesan administrators in California and in particular for the Diocese of Los Angeles, Orange County, San Bernardino and San Diego, as well as lay leaders will have the mission involving two or three people from their parishes, with whom they share the vision of the citizenship initiative led by their pastors and invite 10 or 15 parishioners to form a ministry.
After training, those responsible will schedule an orientation session for citizenship and information will be shared in weekly bulletins and Masses. Subsequently an orientation session would be planned and, in the end, workshops will culminate with registration and voter education.
CAUCUS & TRAINING SESSIONS
Diocese of Los Angeles:
March 11, 2016, 7-9 pm
Our Lady of Victory, 519 E. Palmer St. Compton. CA 90221
April 5, 2016, 7-9 pm
Our Lady of Grace, 5011 White Oak, Encino, CA 91316
April 16, 2016, 7-9 pm
Holy Spirit, 1425 S. Dunsmuir Ave, LA 90019
April 17, 2016, 3:30-6:00 pm.
St. Louis of France, 13935 Temple Ave, La Puente, CA 91746.
Diocese of Orange:
March 10, 2016, 7-9 pm
Pastoral Center Christ Cathedral, 13280 Chapman Ave., Garden Grove, CA 92840
Diocese of San Bernardino
Diocese of San Diego:
For dates and information, Linda Arreola at (858) 490-8323.