February 9, 2024

First New Americans Initiative of 2024

On January 20th, 2024, the Southwest Organizing Project along with member institutions and partners worked to put on the first citizenship workshop of the new year. Since 2005, the New Americans Initiative (NAI) has assisted immigrant families with citizenship information & education, interview preparation, application processing, and DACA scholarships for eligible Illinois residents .

To prepare for these monthly workshops, SWOP, as well as the many other involved organizations, gather new volunteers to join a N-400 training. This training gets them familiarized with the ins and outs of filling out the form for a community member who is in their citizenship process. The N-400 form is used to go through the naturalization , which is the process that gives those who are eligible the chance to become U.S. citizens if they were born outside of the U.S.

After taking the training, the volunteers rise early Saturday morning and make their way to Instituto Del Progreso Latino who hosts the workshop . Then scores of community members show up with their paperwork in hand where they are informed of the impending process, guided to the lawyers for the first step in the process, then to the volunteers who assist with the N-400 form and finally to the fee waiver section where more volunteers help them determine if they qualify to receive assistance with the application fee.

With plans to continue pushing to help families with going through the naturalization process, fresh faces are being added to the program as Adriana Velazquez, the organizer previously in charge of the citizenship workshops, takes on new organizing initiatives at SWOP. Imaltzin Astorga, a Digital Equity Organizer , has recently taken on the responsibility of leading these efforts on SWOP’s end. When asked about how she felt about taking on such a different role, Imaltzin had this to share. “I’m really excited for the opportunity to do more, but I am making sure to keep myself open to learning. There’s so much that goes into making these events possible and connecting with people in the community who genuinely want to be a part of the process. There are people who put years into getting this opportunity and I want to make sure we’re honoring that commitment and doing our part in working with them.” The NAI team at SWOP is excited to continue these monthly workshops this year and have shared that if anyone is interested in becoming a citizen or wants to know about the process to contact Imaltzin Astorga (

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