Image Source: usnews.nbcnews.com
Image Source: usnews.nbcnews.com
CHICAGO – Consolacion “Conching” Cuyugan, now 80 years old, has been an immigrant since 2005. But because she yearly visited her province in the Philippines (Pampanga), her plan to apply for U.S. citizenship has been always postponed in the last three years.

But this year, Conching, a caregiver, resolved not to visit the Philippines so she could apply for U.S. citizenship.

Last Aug. 31, Conching was among the 80-year-old-plus legal permanent residents who participated in the Free Citizenship Workshop of the New Americans Initiative at Wilbur Wright College in the north side of Chicago, Illinois.

“Kahit sanay ako sa init sa Pilipinas, nagustuhan ko na rin ang winter sa Chicago (Even if I am used to the summer weather in the Philippines, I have come to love the winter in Chicago), she said. She finally decided to apply for U.S. citizenship. “Of course, I want to have the benefits of a U.S. citizen,” she quipped.

Another U.S. citizenship applicant is Milagros Anorico Campollo, 75, wife of Filipino World War II veteran, Isabelo P. Campollo, 88, who also applied for U.S. citizenship. She is still hoping to bring in her three married children, probably on employment visas, if they can find jobs online. “I can always help their way around if they get here,” Ms. Campollo said.

Eugene Bona, 62, a caregiver, and his wife, Mahdey de Gana Bona, 63, a homemaker, have been in the U.S. for the last seven years. They decided to become U.S. citizens because of the “other benefits,” which they did not elaborate.

Jerry B. Clarito, executive director of Alliance of Filipino for Immigrant Rights and Empowerment (AFIRE), said the citizenship workshop was free as well as the legal counseling.

AFIRE, a non-for-profit community based organization (CBO), has retained lawyers, Attorneys Michael Aguhar, and Roy John “RJ” Basa, Jr.

Other AFIRE staff, who took part in the workshop aside from Clarito, were Attorney Aguhar and Ms. Sally Velasco. The AFIRE volunteers were Flor Clarito, Alex Ochoa, Rissa Rocha, Stacy Delvo, Joseph Subida, Myrla Baldonado and Divinia Gutierrez.

Applicants who attended the workshop had to bring a money order of $680 payable to Department of Homeland Security for the N-400 Form. Of the amount, $595 is in payment of the N-400 Form, and $85 is for the biometrics. However, these fees are waived if the applicant is receiving public benefits such as LINK, SSI, TANF or unemployment benefit. But they need to present their last Federal Income Tax Return, pay stub in the last 30 days or their income must be $16,755 a year if single or $34,575 annually for a family of four.

The next workshop will be held on Sept. 28, 2013 from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at the NEIU’s El Centro at 3119 N. Pulaski Road also in Chicago, Illinois. Interested parties may call Ms. Sally Richmond of AFIRE at tel. 773.580-1025.

They must be legal permanent residents for at least five years or three years if married to a U.S. citizen or 18 years of age or older with good moral character.

They have to bring their green card, Social Security card, state ID or driver’s license and passport.

They should list the places they have traveled since their residency, including the month, day and year of travel. They should also present a list of their residences and places of work in the past five years. Also needed is the information about the spouse, including name, date of birth, social security number, alien number and/or naturalization.

Other information needed is the list of children, address, name, date of birth and alien number. If married, date of marriage, copy of marriage certificate or naturalization certificate. If previously married, information of the previous marriages of both spouses, date of prior marriage, date when marriage ended and reason the marriage ended.

Information about any arrest, reason for the arrest, date, place and disposition should likewise be presented. For men born on or after Jan. 1, 1960, they should submit their selective service number, date of registration, two passport-size photos and $10 for postage.

Clarito said among the benefits of a U.S. citizen is the right to vote. Also, a U.S. is protected from loss of legal status, protected from deportation, have freedom to travel, can obtain U.S. passport, can hold public office, be employed in the government, obtain public benefits, can obtain tax deductions, especially on U.S. estate taxes and end of USCIS reporting of address change.

Clarito said U.S. citizenship paves the way “for our community to actively participate in the civic affairs of our neighborhood. We need to increase the number of Filipinos who can vote so we can weigh in the issues of jobs, healthcare, safety in the neighborhood, education of our children, immigration of our family relatives, seniors services, etc. In short, the citizenship campaign is aligned with the dreams and aspirations of our Filipino pioneers to become politically empowered.”

According to the 2006-2010 American Community Survey, there have been 1,057,155 naturalized U.S. citizens, 51,367 of whom are in Illinois, and 12,479 are in the Chicago area.

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