The State of Illinois is home to 1.8 million immigrants, the sixth largest immigrant population of any state in the nation. Immigrants make up 13.5% of our state's population and 17.5% of our state's workforce. Of these immigrants, 850,000 are U.S. Citizens, and another 370,000 are currently eligible to become U.S. Citizens.
As a member of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), SWOP takes part in the New Americans Initiative to assist those who are eligible to become citizens at workshops that are held once a month. This integrated citizenship campaign run by ICIRR uses grassroots and media outreach in 25 different languages to provide legal screening, application processing, and English and citizenship test preparation services to immigrants throughout Illinois. Before the workshop begins, SWOP gathers volunteers from their staff, leaders and community members who are interested in assisting and prepares them with a thorough N-400 application training program. The day of the workshop starts with a check-in from the different organizations that have volunteered for the day then individuals applying for citizenship can speak with volunteer lawyers who check their paperwork and ensure they have all the necessary documentation to proceed. From there, they move on to the next set of volunteers who assist them in filling out the N-400 application, which can take upwards of forty-five minutes to an hour depending on the required information. Once that process is complete, the individual applying for citizenship moves on to the last process of test preparation and an eligibility check for the application fee waiver.
U.S. citizenship is a path that opens many avenues for immigrant families. Becoming a citizen means obtaining the right to vote, travel freely, protect themselves and their family members from the possibility of deportation, the ability to petition to unite with other family members, hold a wider range of jobs, and have access to all the rights, benefits, and responsibilities of a full member of the United States of America. SWOP works with many different organizations assist families with their citizenship process and is always looking for additional volunteers to continue to push these efforts forward