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Department of Homeland Security gives Salt Lake City groups $250,000 citizenship grant

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SALT LAKE CITY - The U.S. Department of Homeland security has given two local organizations a $250,000 grant to help refugees and immigrants achieve citizenship.

Catholic Community Services of Utah (CCS) and English Skills Learning Center (ESLC) have paired together, to help immigrants and refugees better assimilate into the Salt Lake City community.

“Once a refugee or immigrant can fluently speak the language, they are on the fast track to becoming self-sufficient,” said Aden Batar, Director of Migration and Refugee Services for CCS.

The grant is meant to help 400 refugees gain U.S. citizenship, according to a statement made by CCS.

“The test right now is very expensive. $725. And if you fail the test, you only have one more or else you start all over again,” said Robert Simbe, instructor at English Skills Learning Center.

Catholic Community Services provides people with free legal assistance and helps prepare applicants for the interview process.

“If the officer feels like there's a reason to deny that application, we fight for that person to make sure it actually gets approved instead of denied,” said Alyssa Williams, Immigration Attorney for Catholic Community Services of Utah.

“New arrivals to our community work tirelessly and have many talents and skills to contribute to our community. It is such an important service to offer them a path to citizenship,” says Catherine Barnhart, Executive Director of English Skills Learning Center. “We work with each individual to ensure they are proficient in English, and understand how our democracy functions, while CCS’ Immigration program provides assistance on the legal side. The partnership between the English Skills Learning Center and CCS is crucial in helping refugees and immigrants achieve their goal of citizenship.”

“For me personally, the most rewarding part is when I go to the ceremonies and I see them hold that certificate because I was part of their process. I was part of their journey,” said Simbe.

For more information about free citizenship classes, go to eslcenter.org

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