New Loan Aids Immigrants, Families Toward Citizenship

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local News

By Eleanore Catolico

A collaboration unified immigrant advocacy groups, a financial institution, a prominent church and local officials for a program that assists community members on a journey to becoming U.S. citizens.

On Saturday, February 15, The Resurrection Project (TRP), along with Second Federal Credit Union (SCFU), held a press conference launching a new loan program that provides financial support for individuals and families who desire to become U.S. citizens, but face financial obstacles during the application process.

The loan program, entitled Project Citizenship, gives out loans to cover the cost of the application and additional legal fees for amounts ranging from $680 to $4000 with terms from 12, 18 or 24 months.

SCFU also offers a citizenship savings account option, and the My Citizenship Loan, a loan that is placed in a shared account and helps individuals improve their credit score.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website lists the application for citizenship costs $680 per person, which includes a $595 filing fee and an $85 biometric fee. SCFU’s Project Citizenship is the only banking institution in Illinois that offers such a loan program specifically targeting individuals seeking citizenship.

“I think that a lot of times, especially for families, the costs are up there,” SCFU Little Village Branch Manager Roman Ruiz said. “When you have a citizenship loan, that wall that kept people from applying for citizenship is being broken.”

During the press conference, Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez, Alderman Danny Solis of the 25th Ward, TRP Founder Raul Raymundo, and other civic leaders addressed the hundred-strong crowd that filled St. Pius Parish’s basement, located at 1919 South Ashland Ave in Pilsen.

Gutierrez is currently the U.S. representative for Illinois’ 4th congressional district and is considered one of the national leaders for comprehensive immigration reform. He expressed how gaining citizenship is the key for people to mobilize their electoral power.

“You are permanent residents and you are saying to this state, to this nation, ‘Take a look at us here in Chicago,’” Congressman Gutierrez said. “We are becoming citizens so one day we can vote and we can transform this nation and protect other immigrants and give them the same opportunities we have here today.”

Individuals eligible for citizenship must have been a lawful permanent resident for at least four years and nine months or a lawful permanent resident for at least two years and nine months and have been married to a US citizen for three years. English skills are required.

Those with mental or physical disabilities and elderly citizens may also be eligible for citizenship. These individuals’ English skills are not required

Following the press conference, representatives from Second Federal Credit Union and volunteers from TRP, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), and the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) conducted a citizenship workshop and helped residents with application forms on site and explained the SFCU loans.

For TRP community organizer Mayra Lopez, the workshop provides an opportunity for advocates to directly engage with its servicing population and discuss relevant issues regarding citizenship, including the tensions of national identities and the complications of the naturalization process that include language barriers and cost.

Lopez recommends that individuals interested in moving forward with the citizenship process should have their applications reviewed by a non-profit organization, as applications are strictly vetted by the immigration office and any mistake could jeopardize an individual’s citizenship acceptance.

Lopez again emphasized the significant contribution a new citizenry can make.

“There are tons of people that are in mixed status families and citizenship is such an importance piece of progression in our communities,” Lopez said. “So whether you are undocumented, whether you are an LPR or whether you’re a citizen, you need to get involved in order to better the conditions our communities live in.”

For more information on SCFU’s citizenship loan program, call 773-277-8500 or visit the branches located in Brighton Park (4281 S. Archer Ave.), Little Village (3920 W. 26th St.), or Cicero (4811 W. Cermak Rd.).

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