On Saturday, March 16, the Mills Memorial Hall welcomed local individuals and families with legal residency status hoping to apply for American citizenship. Organizers, volunteers and local lawyers created a friendly environment well prepared to facilitate the transition towards naturalization. The event was designed to help participants through every step of the application process by addressing obstacles such as lack of awareness regarding eligibility and daunting application fees with professional guidance and vital information. The event was made possible due to the tireless efforts of the Rollins Office of Community Engagement, Join Us In Making Progress initiative and the Florida Immigrant Coalition. The organizations provided Rollins students and local community members a platform for civic engagement and community activism.
“Events like this are great because it shows students that we all have the ability to change the problems that we see around us. It also helps us to get a real idea of the issue and helps rid us of our ignorance,” Democracy Project Coordinator, Brock Monroe ‘14 said. The citizenship clinic offered more than assistance with paperwork; resources such as English and citizenship classes were available to help facilitate the transition towards American citizenship. The Florida Immigrant Coalition has been working since 1998 to integrate immigrant communities into American society, especially through activism regarding immigrant rights and citizenship training. The organization emphasizes the importance of training in language skills and civic values for a successful and productive immigrant community in the US.
Immigration has been a hot topic recently as reform seems to be on the brink with members of the Republican party reassessing national immigration policy, especially due to the significant role of Hispanic votes in Obama’s victory. In 2010 there were 710,000 Legal Permanent Residents in Florida eligible to apply for citizenship, but only 87,000 naturalized in 2011, leaving the rest unable to participate in the 2012 election.
The Florida Immigrant Coalition advocates awareness and civic involvement so that immigrants can have their voices heard and become fully engaged as residents of the United States. Through collaboration with the Florida Immigrant Coalition, the Rollins Office of Community Engagement echoed this need for inclusiveness and equal representation, and the event characterized the promotion and preservation of diversity integral to American values.