Maryland Immigrants Get A Boost Toward Citizenship | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

WAMU 88.5 : Morning Edition

Filed Under:

Maryland Immigrants Get A Boost Toward Citizenship

Play associated audio
 
Edward Zayzay, a Liberian immigrant currently pursuing citizenship, extolls the value of the micro-loans to help immigrants begin the citizenship process at Casa De Maryland's headquarters.
Matt Bush
  Edward Zayzay, a Liberian immigrant currently pursuing citizenship, extolls the value of the micro-loans to help immigrants begin the citizenship process at Casa De Maryland's headquarters.

 

The process of becoming a U.S. citizen can be a long  and expensive one for immigrants, but a new program in Maryland is trying to ease at least one of those burdens.

Take Edward Zayzay, a native Liberian, who first came to the United States to go to college. After graduating with a degree in accounting, he decided to stay. There were a lot of economic reasons to do so, but also one economic hurdle: the $675 fee to start the naturalization process.

"There's more opportunity here. There's a freedom in this country...you can do whatever you want to do," he says. "It's not easy, but it's possible. This is the only country you can have those things. In other parts of the world, you have no way out."

Zayzay did hold on to his Liberian roots though, even as the country fell into brutal civil war. It was that war, actually, that was a turning point in his decision to pursue U.S. citizenship. He returned to Liberia earlier this year, and what he saw made a lasting impression.

"I saw the massive destruction," he says. "And then it added up ... either go on with this, or to become a United States citizen." Zayzay chose the latter, even if it meant paying the $675 fee while unemployed. 

Zayzay's plight is common, says Casa de Maryland executive director Gustavo Torres, which is why the immigrant services group is starting a micro-loan program to help those who want to be citizens but can't pay the fee. (The fee has tripled during the past few years.)

Micro-loans are not common in the U.S., but have been successful in other countries, Torres adds.

"In other countries, when it's a micro-loan, they pay 99 percent of the time.  It's amazing," he says. "And we believe that will be the same situation here in the United States."

Torres says the interest rate for the loan is 9 percent, something they negotiated with banks and believe is fair. In addition, "it's a good opportunity to make sure that we will receive the money back to lend the money to other people," he says. 

The loans offer another benefit outside of helping immigrants become citizens, points out Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who was on hand Tuesday as Casa de Maryland unveiled the program.

"In today's economy, building a credit history is important, Van Hollen says. And for new immigrants and non-citizens it can be very difficult to build up that credit history."

Only legal permanent residents in Maryland can receive the micro-loans for now, but leaders hope to expand the program if it's successful.

NPR

Between World Wars, Gay Culture Flourished In Berlin

In Gay Berlin, Robert Beachy describes the rise of a gay subculture in the 1920s and '30s, how it contributed to our understanding of gay identity and how it was eradicated by the Nazis.
NPR

A Holy Land Christmas Porridge Honors A Damsel In Distress

Some Christians in Israel and the West Bank celebrate Eid el-Burbara on Dec. 17. The feast honors St. Barbara, an early convert to Christianity whose story is echoed in the Rapunzel tale.
WAMU 88.5

Hogan Cabinet Appointments Expected In Annapolis Today

Maryland governor-elect Larry Hogan will announce some of his cabinet appointments today, but there's no early indication which positions he will fill.

NPR

Google News Is Taken Offline In Spain, After A Call For Payments

In Spain, Google and other news aggregators would face steep fines if they publish headlines and abstracts without paying.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.