Red Cross offers citizenship classes - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Path to U.S. citizenship

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A group takes the oath of allegiance in a ceremony on St. Simons Island. A group takes the oath of allegiance in a ceremony on St. Simons Island.

There is an 844-page immigration bill designed to secure the border, allow tens of thousands of new high- and low-skilled workers into the country, and put 11 million people illegally on a path to citizenship.  

U.S. senators are debating the legislation.

But before they decide how to tackle the issue of immigration, the question remains - what happens to the millions of people already here?

Many of them say the current process to become a naturalized citizen is daunting. To put it simply, it takes time – to qualify to apply and to gather the information required in order to fill out the forms. Then there's the wait for the application to be approved.

The Southeast Chapter of the American Red Cross is making the process a bit easier. For one woman, the Red Cross class was exactly what she needed.

It offers six, three-hour classes.  

"They learn about civics; they learn history; they learn about our government," said Sharyn Baggett, of the Red Cross.

Forty men and women from all over the world are preparing for the citizenship test.

Dr. Becky Dacruz is a professor at Armstrong Atlantic State University who volunteers to teach.

"We work with them on what questions may be asked during the interview, what they can be prepared for, how they can strategize if they don't understand a question," she said. 

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, becoming a naturalized us citizen can take an average of three months if immigrants meet the other criteria. 

The basic requirements include: being at least 18 years old, being a permanent resident for at least three years and being able to read, write, and speak basic English. 

USCIS works closely with groups like the Red Cross to aid in the process.

This is only the fourth preparing for citizenship class offered by the Southeast Chapter of the American Red Cross. In fact, this is the only Red Cross chapter that offers this opportunity for immigrants to make their American dream a reality.

Sandra Bowlin moved to the U.S. six years ago from Jamaica with her husband and children - all of whom are U.S. citizens.    

Although she is a permanent legal resident, Bowlin said that becoming a naturalized citizen means having a better life. Aside from this class, Bowlin is taking online college courses in religion. She hopes to one day open a fashion house and study law.

"We are a third world country, so we don't have the privilege or access to many things as you do here in the U.S.," Bowlin said.

Bowling will submit the N-400 that's the application for naturalization. If that is accepted by the USCIS, she will be contacted to take the citizenship test in Atlanta. The test consists of 10 questions. Respondents have to pass the test, by getting 6 of the 10 answers correct.

If she passes the test, she can take her oath of allegiance and become a citizen.

"The American Dream for me is being free," she said. 

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