Hundreds assisted at Citizenship Workshop
“We see in each other the face of God,” said Dominican Father Sergio Serrano, director of the archdiocesan Hispanic Apostolate, to more than 50 volunteers working the Citizenship Mega Workshop held March 22 at the apostolate in Metairie.
He read a prayer about refugees from Pope Francis: “It doesn’t matter if you are Catholic or not, we try to help our brothers and sisters ... and to welcome every stranger as Christ in our midst.”
Hundreds of people, age 18 and older, turned out to get help on their path to citizenship in the United States. Volunteer lawyers and those versed in the necessary steps to American citizenship were on hand to provide eligibility screening for citizenship and answer questions, especially those pertaining to a new and longer immigration application form.
The volunteers also helped people register for one of three levels of citizenship classes and prepared them to take the citizenship test and the immigration interview. All services are available weekdays through Catholic Charities at the Hispanic Apostolate, 2505 Maine Ave., in Metairie.
“We have the classes so when they go to the immigration office, they are ready,” said Lolita Carcache, Catholic Charities’ Community Outreach Ministries director.
Those not able to complete what they came for were able to make one-on-one appointments for a later date at the Hispanic Apostolate. Carcache estimated that 40 applications were completed and reviewed by Catholic Charities’ immigration representatives that day.
Carcache said Catholic Charities strives to reach out to immigrants in many ways. Past health fairs have drawn more than 500 participants. This was the first mega workshop that Catholic Charities has hosted in many years.
She said the day was made possible by a grant that allowed Catholic Charities to coordinate the workshop. Annie Johnston, a Catholic Charities staff attorney, oversees the day-to-day application process. Others assisting with the day were Catholic Charities’ Immigration and Refugee Services Office, Spirit of Hope, the Loyola University Law Clinic (and its Translation and Interpretation Certificate Program) and local attorneys.
“We are here to help people become U.S. citizens,” said Reyna Croft, immigration and refugee coordinator for Catholic Charities. “We are pretty much holding their hands until they pass their immigration exam.”
Since the grant is for two years, Carcache said future citizenship workshops will be given on the West Bank and in New Orleans East, where large numbers of Hispanics live.
For details, call 310-6861 or visit Catholic Charities Immigration at www.ccano.org.
Christine Bordelon can be reached at cbordelon@clarion herald.org.