Bolingbrook, Woodridge, Crest Hill libraries help immigrants toward citizenship

Students prep for citizenship quizzes during a class at White Oak Library Crest Hill.

By Laura Katauskas | Staff Reporter

More than 100 immigrants are on their way to becoming citizens thanks in part to classes begun by the Southwest Suburban Immigrant Project in partnership with local libraries.

After a 12-week course on citizenship preparation, more than 100 local legal permanent residents were recognized at the White Oak Library Romeoville Branch for successfully completing one of three courses offered by the Southwest Suburban Immigrant Project (SSIP) in partnership with three libraries, Fountaindale Public Library, Woodridge Public Library, and White Oak Library Crest Hill Branch.

“We want to make sure our completing students know SSIP is committed to every step of their naturalization process, and we’ll be there for them as well when they register to vote, helping them to become fully engaged citizens,” says SSIP’s Director of Organizing Elizabeth Cervantes.

For some, admittedly it was the opportunity to jump start the process and begin what many feel can be a daunting task.

Organizers say the classes offer guidance for those that sorely need it and the goal is to help as many people as possible, noting today’s political climate, has created a sense of urgency and in some cases fear.

Members of the SSIP and library staff who serve as volunteer mentors hope to ease the process and the fear through education.

“We think it is important to serve our patrons and assist them with programs such as these courses that will open new paths for them,” said Crest Hill Branch Manager Amy Byrne.

The next step for many of the completing students is to apply for naturalization, which they will be able to do with the guidance of SSIP and partner suburban agencies.

Currently, the naturalization process takes anywhere from five to eight months. During this time, an applicant should prepare with knowledge of the U.S. Constitution, civics, and English skills. But, not many organizations offer this resource outside the city of Chicago, and is why SSIP said it was necessary and a pivotal act to be serving this immigrant population in their process of becoming naturalized U.S. citizens.

A second opportunity for the courses will be offered in the fall at the White Oak Library Crest Hill Branch. For further information, call 630- 296-6755.

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