The state’s second labor-supported immigrant advocacy center opened Tuesday, April 21, 2015, at the Jersey Gardens Mall in Elizabeth, as the result of a unique partnership between Union County and We Are One New Jersey, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping more than 400,000 legal immigrants living and working in New Jersey become U.S. citizens.
We are One New Jersey – Union County Center provides U.S. citizenship application assistance, including preparatory classes for the citizenship test and referral, notary and translation services, at low- or no-cost to Union County residents.
The kickoff ceremony for the We Are One New Jersey – Union County Center was attended by more than 100 political, labor, community and civic leaders, including state Senator Ray Lesniak, Assembly members Annette Quijano and Jamel Holley, and Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage. Many members of the community, including those who are taking U.S. citizenship preparation classes, also attended. Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders Chairman Mohamed S. Jalloh served as the master of ceremonies, and Freeholder Sergio Granados attended. Charles Hall Jr., the chairman of Working Families United for New Jersey Inc., also joined us.
"These community-based centers are important additions in our ongoing effort to build and engage new communities,” said Charles Wowkanech, president of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO. “We all live and work with people who are in this country legally but cannot fully participate in their communities because they are not U.S. citizens.”
New Jersey State AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Laurel Brennan added:
“By helping residents to become U.S. citizens this center is helping local families to gain power, to gain visibility, and to become engaged in the state and local civic process. There are long-time members of our communities that are invisible because they lack the resources or support needed to become citizens. This center will ensure that their voices and dreams matter too.
Some 52,000 Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs) live in Union County, including diverse and vibrant populations of Colombians, Ecuadorians, Portuguese, Haitians, Filipinos and more.
We Are One New Jersey – Union County is the second labor-supported immigrant advocacy center in the state. The first We Are One Center opened in October in Jersey City. Citizenship classes and information clinics have already drawn hundreds from the community to the centers.