The foundation formed by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim today announced an aggressive effort to provide financing, legal services, and other assistance to help the estimated 3.4 million Mexican nationals living legally in the U.S. today to become American citizens, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
"Although many Mexican migrants are eligible for U.S. citizenship, very few start the citizenship process because they don't know how to apply," Hector Slim of the Carlos Slim Foundation said today in a news conference in the shadow of the Tower of the Americas in San Antonio, which has become a 'second Statue of Liberty' for the millions of Mexican and Latin American residents who have immigrated, legally and illegally, into the U.S. over the past two decades.
"This lack of information generates the perception that the process of becoming a United States citizen is inaccessible to the majority of eligible migrants."
The effort will include free legal aid from pro-bono lawyers, information on how to obtain loans to pay for the citizenship process, and other services.
Mexico's National Human Rights Commission and the Autonomous University of Mexico, which has five campuses in the United States, will also participate in the program.
"Why now?" asked UNAM President Enrique Graue Weichers. "Donald Trump is a clear reason. We feel there is a danger for the Mexican people."
Weichers and other leaders of the effort cited President Trump's anti Mexican rhetoric, President Trump's pardoning of former Phoenix sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was accused of racially profiling Latinos, as well as the Administration's decision to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program as incentives to urge eligible Mexican immigrants toward citizenship as a way to protect their rights.
Jorge Santibanez, who heads the New York based immigrant rights group Juntos Podemos, says for most of the estimated 35 million people of Mexican origin or Mexican descent living in the United States today, the days of working in the U.S. for a time, sending remittances back home, and eventually returning to Mexico are over, and Mexicans need to follow the path of other immigrant groups in the United States.
"It is time that they become more and more integrated into America," he said. "It is not an immigrant issue any more. Civic participation plays a very important role. We think it is important to participate from the civic perspective, including voting."
He says the participation of the well respected billionaire Slim in the effort will, essentially, give Mexican immigrants 'permission' to seek citizenship in their new homeland.
"I think it is very important that voices fro Mexico tell Mexicans living here, it's okay," he said. "Because the speech not so many years ago was in another sense, it was 'you are supporting us, you are living in another country.' But now the message is 'you have rights in the country where you live'. People need to to know they will not be doing something wrong for Mexico to become a citizen of the United States."
The Slim Foundation says Mexicans apply for citizenship far slower after they arrive in the U.S. than do other ethnic groups, and this program will help end that.
"People don't seek citizenship for several reasons, including not speaking English, the cost of the process, not having a clear understanding of the advantages of becoming a U.S. citizen," Graue said.
Santibanez says the 'anti immigrant speech' coming out of the Trump Administration is an 'opportunity' for Mexican immigrants to 'achieve their rights' in the U.S.