Navigating the Naturalization Process with the Help of Catholic Charities

Published: November 28, 2018 | By: Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation | Category:

“It’s great to feel welcome and to be invited to be a part of a community. I hope to become a United States citizen because it will give me more opportunities to be involved.”

– Gloire Kakuru, Catholic Charities’ client

A Program Fund grant supported Catholic Charities’ affordable, professional legal services for immigrants who would otherwise not be able to afford these services. Immigration attorneys work individually with clients to help stabilize their immigration situations and help determine, for example, if they are eligible to apply for work authorization, and permanent residency or citizenship so that they can become economically vibrant members of the community. Immigration attorneys provide free consultation services to immigrants by appointment in the Catholic Charities’ Cedar Rapids office so that they understand their rights and the legal immigration options available to them.

Gloire Kakuru, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, became a client of Catholic Charities recently. After leaving his home nation, Gloire spent six years in a refugee camp with his mother and three siblings. He was able to learn English there, and his family was eventually settled in Michigan. In seeking out a closer-knit community, his family moved to Cedar Rapids. Initially, Gloire connected with Catholic Charities as an Americorp RefugeeRISE member. He worked as an advocate and translator for refugees seeking services from the agency. Today, he is a student at the University of Iowa and hopes to pursue a career that will allow him to give back to the community.

Gloire is currently pursuing citizenship with the help of Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services. Yer Vang, Director of Immigration Legal Services, explains that naturalization is a time- and cost-intensive process, which means many people need assistance. Additionally, because of recent immigration law changes, submitting the application incorrectly could result in deportation. “A lot can go wrong without proper legal counsel,” she explains.

Gloire sought out the help of Catholic Charities specifically because he knew they did good work and wanted to formalize his place in America society. He knows that becoming a U.S. citizen will offer him opportunities he would not otherwise have. He’s grateful to be in the United States and is eager to give back to his community in the future.

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