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From Legal Resident to Voting Citizen: Mobilizing Immigrant Families

PHOTO: Cenia Friare, right, recently registered to vote for the first time and hopes other naturalized citizens living in Michigan will follow her lead. Photo courtesy Michigan United.
PHOTO: Cenia Friare, right, recently registered to vote for the first time and hopes other naturalized citizens living in Michigan will follow her lead. Photo courtesy Michigan United.
May 19, 2014

DETROIT - With uncertainty surrounding the fate of comprehensive immigration reform measures, one group is leading an all-out push to encourage legal residents to take the next steps and enjoy the permanent protections and rights that come with U.S. citizenship.

Detroiter Cenia Fraire came to the United States from Mexico as a teenager and became a naturalized citizen more than 15 years ago, but said she never got around to registering to vote, until now.

"I see the challenges that people are having," she said. "I can make a difference. I want my voice to be heard and select the right individuals to represent me."

The "New Americans" campaign is under way in eight U.S. cities, including Detroit. In coming weeks, campaign leaders from the immigrant advocacy group Michigan United will hold workshops and informational sessions in schools and churches, and go door to door.

Fraire, who plans to vote for the first time in the August primary elections, said she is sharing her story because she hopes others won't wait as long to become fully engaged in American society as she did.

"If you want change in your community, I think it's the time to do it now," she said. "Don't wait, don't prolong it. Do it now."

Roughly 200,000 immigrants who are considered U.S. permanent residents live in Michigan. Experts estimate that more than half are eligible to apply for naturalization, but only a small percentage of them take that step each year.

More information is online at miunited.org.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI