HCC Opens a New Semester of Citizenship Classes

Significant challenges await anyone working towards becoming a U.S. citizen, but Hope CommUnity Center equips applicants with many resources they need to make the goal a reality.

“It’s not too difficult, it’s about being prepared,” explained Mayra E. Millán, an immigration services officer from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. She was the main speaker July 8 for the Citizenship Orientation held at the HCC Hawthorne campus.

The 50 or so people who attended heard practical advice from Elizabeth Riebel, HCC, director of Immigrant Rights; Ely Castillo, HCC coordinator for the Citizenship Program; Rosa Malagon, an accredited representative for Comprehensive Refugee Services for Catholic Charities of Central Florida; and Millán, an agent with USCIS.

Millán discussed general requirements for citizenship and gave practical tips about when to submit an application.

A person must reach age 18 by the date of application. The applicant must also possess a permanent resident card, which allows that person to live and work in the United States.

The next hurdle is how long the person has lived in the country and in the Central Florida area. In general, the person must have five years of continuous residency in the United States and three months in the area.

All of the speakers preached practice and preparation as the keys to success. HCC provides citizenship classes based on three levels of English comprehension. Upcoming classes are Tuesday, July 11 at 6 p.m., and Saturday, July 15 at 9:30 a.m.

Elizabeth Riebel of HCC explained that legal help is available as well through HCC, which works with Catholic Charities to provide access to attorneys.

Castillo, the Citizenship Program coordinator for HCC, offered hope directly to the participants.
“One of my dreams is for you to become citizens,” she said. “We need you all to advocate for the immigrant community.” As U.S. citizens, they could run for office and be in positions that could help others like them.

The ultimate show of hope came at the end of the program when the citizenship teachers and HCC Board Member Mary Carroll welcomed about two dozen new U.S. citizens who had gone through the program at HCC. Each received a gift and applause as they filled the front of the room. One new U.S. citizen addressed those who just heard about the extensive process.

“Make the effort as a gift to yourself,” she said. “HCC really helped me.”