The Coast News Group

Free U.S. citizenship classes begin this month

OCEANSIDE – A free pilot program to prepare adults for U.S. citizenship begins at Oceanside Public Library on Sept. 6.

“There’s definitely a need right now,” Jose Garcia, senior library assistant, said. “There’s a push for more people to gain naturalized citizenship being a border city.”

Citizenship classes will last 13 weeks. Within that time participants will learn about civics and English grammar and practice written and oral response to the 100 possible questions that might be asked during the naturalization test. Class size is expected to be small and allow for plenty of individual attention.

“It’s definitely worthwhile to get practice,” Garcia said.

Also available to students is help from the Legal Aid Society of San Diego to answer any questions about qualifications to become a citizen. This additional service is a big plus. Class instructors cannot give legal advice or answer related questions. Securing an appointment with LASSD can be difficult due to the high demand for the organization’s services.

“We have a direct line to get an appointment,” Garcia said. “LASSD assured us any students coming through the library program will get appointments.”

An introduction workshop to the class was held last week. LASSD representatives were on hand to share information, answer individual questions and conduct one-on-one eligibility assessments.

“The presentation that the Legal Aid Society of San Diego made was informative and outlined the naturalization process,” Monica Chapa-Domercq, principal librarian, said. “Questions were general and each participant worked with a LASSD team member on specific questions.”

MiraCosta College, San Diego County Library and other agencies offer a variety of programs to prepare adults to gain citizenship. The library’s 13-week class will provide another option.

“We’ve had interest in the class,” Domercq said. “We’re hoping to supplement what others like MiraCosta College are doing for those who feel they’d benefit from the classroom setting.”

Instruction will be provided by trained volunteers, some of whom went through the naturalization process.

The pilot program will be taught in English, but later classes may be taught in Spanish to address older applicants who have lived in the U.S. for more than 15 years. The library is anticipating expanding classes as interest grows.

“It’s a great way to serve community, and get people civically engaged,” Garcia said.

Once participants complete the classes they will be prepared to apply for citizenship and take the naturalization exam.

There is also a citizenship table at the library with information pamphlets and practice tests.

Free citizenship classes will be held weekly at the Civic Center Library at 6 p.m. beginning Sept. 6.