A legal permanent resident receives help preparing an application for U.S. citizenship at a recent workshop co-hosted by the New Americans Campaign.

The New Americans Campaign co-hosted free citizenship and new voter workshops at two Valley locations on Saturday, June 1. The group is one of several working to help the almost 9 million legal permanent residents in the U.S. become citizens. Local immigration organizations, faith-based groups, legal service providers and more took part in the event.

Because the workshops were on Shabbat, many Valley Jewish organizations and residents who also help immigrants were unable to attend. However, they want it known that they and national counterparts are ready to help.

Rachel Sulkes is the communications director for Unite Here Local 11 and works with the Immigration and Worker Center. She was unable to attend the event.

“My family came to this country at the beginning of the 1900s fleeing Russia and the pogroms there,” Sulkes said. “Every year at our seder, when we talk about being a stranger in a strange land, I identify very much with that, and that’s why I do this work.”

Operated by Central Arizonans for a Sustainable Economy, the Immigration and Worker Center opened in 2015 to help legal permanent residents become citizens. It also provides English and civics classes to prepare for the citizenship test and helps residents determine eligibility for fee waivers.

Welcoming America, a national organization based in Georgia, was founded by David Lubell, who received the 2018 Charles Bronfman Prize given to Jewish humanitarians under age 50 whose work is grounded in Jewish values.

Welcoming America partners with nonprofits and local governments around the country to implement policies to help immigrants and refugees integrate into communities.

Rachel Peric, executive director of Welcoming America, explained that the organization supports programs that help residents become citizens in communities across the country. It also works with programs connecting refugees with community gardens or helping refugee and immigrant entrepreneurs develop their businesses and connect with investors.

“My grandparents were Holocaust survivors and they came to the U.S. with my mother, who was an infant at the time,” Peric said. “They came as refugees, as immigrants. I grew up with their stories of the family they had lost. For me, coming to an organization that’s focused on bringing people together and moving past the divisive narratives that we’re hearing in our country right now is rooted not only in my Jewish faith and the idea of welcoming the stranger, but also in that experience.” JN

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