Immigration activists target legal residents

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBasketball roundup: Sierra Canyon, Birmingham set to face off in tournament quarterfinalsOrganizers are aggressively reaching out to the estimated 8 million-plus legal immigrants who are eligible to apply but haven’t done so. Ultimately, they hope to turn these immigrants and those who have already become citizens into a powerful political bloc, launching nationwide campaigns this week to sign up 1 million new voters by the fall. Green card holders can live and work in the United States but cannot vote. Those who have lived here five years are eligible to take the citizenship exam; the wait is shorter if the applicant is married to an American citizen. Unions, religious groups and immigration activists are launching campaigns to seek out these legal residents and prepare them with free civics courses and, if necessary, English classes. At a citizenship drive in Chicago two days before the national work boycott May 1, organizers hoped to assist 1,000 would-be applicants. So many showed up that organizers had to see 850 people on a later day, said Joshua Hoyt, executive director of a Chicago-based group that is among those leading the citizenship push. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Juana Elba Benitez is studying for the U.S. citizenship test she failed eight years ago – an exam the 75-year-old native of El Salvador swore she would never take again. Then she learned that Congress was debating a crackdown on illegal immigrants, and Benitez worried that legal residents like her might be next. So she is memorizing the first 13 states and who said “Give me liberty or give me death,” all to be able to vote. “Every day the laws are getting more rigid,” says Benitez, poring over an American history study guide alongside about 40 students at a social services center for Hispanic immigrants. “I’m afraid that one day they might say, `A green card isn’t good enough. Whoever isn’t a citizen is out of here.”‘ Citizenship applications among legal immigrants are up nearly 20 percent over last year. last_img