Two free programs to help all immigrants achieve citizenship or qualify for public assistance are being offered by the Muslim Women’s Resource Center, 6445 N. Western Ave., Chicago, IL.
“Our first program is a pro bono (no cost) citizenship program which is held on Wednesday mornings at our office,” says Sima Quraishi, Executive Director of the Resource Center. “It is a citizenship workshop which is under the auspices of the New American Initiative, funded by the State of Illinois.”
“We serve every immigrant group,” she added. “About 70% of those who come here are Muslim, but we also serve Russians, Hispanics, Asians and those of other nationalities. We are happy to work with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to accomplish this.”
Quraishi added that “it is important to be a citizen; naturalized immigrants have incomes that are 14.6% higher, and poverty rates that are 9.9% lower than those immigrants who are not citizens. ”
“And, immigrants pay taxes, as well,” she added. “A 2016 study by the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy, estimated that both documented and undocumented immigrants pay $11.64 billion in state and local taxes in 2013 across the nation, equivalent to about 8 percent of their total income.”
She pointed out that it takes about five years to become a citizen.
“Many immigrants are here in the United States, working, with kids in school, but they are hesitant to apply for citizenship. They are afraid they will not pass the tests and, of course, the fees can be high – $725 per person,” Quraishi said.
“However,” she went on to say, “our agency supports our clients and make sure they are able to pass the citizenship tests. We are proud of our very high rate of passing. And, there is a waiver of fees through the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Service, an organization with which we work, great savings for immigrants who must watch every penny!”
The second program, part of the Immigrant Family Resource Program, helps low-income families qualify for public assistance.
“We have qualified staff members and volunteers who help those who come here,” Quraishi went on to say.
Much of the aid to new immigrants is funded by the State of Illinois and the Chicago New American Initiative Program which was brought to Chicago in 2012 by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. This program serves approximately 10,000 new immigrants over a three-year period. Quraishi served on Board when this new program was formulated.
“Our mission it is to assist immigrants and refugees to help them overcome cultural and language barriers, and prepare them with appropriate occupational skills to become self-sufficient and ready to enter the job market,” she concluded.
For further information or to make an appointment at the Muslim Women Resource Center, please call 773-764-1686.