Citizenship Program Helps Latinos Become Citizens and Voters

By Janet Hernandez, Senior Civic Engagement Project Manager, NCLR

SONY DSCEvery year, thousands of Latinos across the country become naturalized citizens. One of those new citizens is Cleofas Hernandez, an 89-year-old woman from the Imperial Valley in California. She says that she was determined to become a citizen so that she’d be able to cast her vote on November 8.

Hernandez was a participant in TODEC (Training Occupational Development Educating Communities) Legal Center’s citizenship classes. TODEC has been serving migrant communities in Riverside, San Bernardino, and Imperial Counties for decades. Its mission is to empower disenfranchised immigrant communities to become economically, socially, educationally, and civically self-sufficient, while enhancing individual self-esteem.

“I am very grateful to TODEC, which helped me complete my citizenship application free of charge” said Hernandez. “They even helped me get a fee waiver—TODEC’s help was a blessing.” TODEC holds monthly workshops to help people like Hernandez become citizens and voters. The organization is a current grantee of NCLR’s citizenship program, which works with Latino organizations across the country to help prepare eligible immigrants to become citizens.

Since the founding fathers signed the U.S. Constitution on September 17, 1787, Americans have celebrated Citizenship Day every September 17. Many other Latino organizations across the country organize naturalization workshops to help individuals apply to become citizens.

Hernandez has lived in the United States for more than 60 years and finally decided to become a citizen. She explains that after many years of waiting to apply for citizenship, she was motivated by many things, among those, the negative rhetoric that people hear on television against the Latino community. Hernandez was motivated to become a citizen to be able to vote in the upcoming presidential election. She says she will vote, even if it’s the last thing she might do due to her age.

If you are interested in the naturalization process, visit the NCLR website to find more information about what you need to know to become a citizen. If you have already become a naturalized citizen, you can register to vote by downloading Latinos Vote on iTunes or Google Play.

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