Coalition workshop aims to help immigrants obtain citizenship




August 13, 2006


By Desiree Belmarez, Staff Writer or 615-259-8035

The Tennessean

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Juan Moreno and his mother Delia have tried to become United States citizens for the past nine years.

But a complicated stream of events that left Delia Moreno's husband a citizen, but not her and her son, brought them to the "Green Card Holders-Obtaining Citizenship" workshop at the Day of Solidarity & Citizenship conference Saturday sponsored by the Tennessee Immigrants & Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC).

A student at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Juan Moreno, an immigrant from Mexico, believes becoming a citizen will "make life a lot easier" for him and his family.

"You're kind of looked down upon if you're not a citizen," said Juan Moreno, 20, of Nashville. "They don't understand that you're human and assume you are here to take advantage (of the system)."

Immigrants who attended the conference held at Glencliff High School learned the voting process, their rights on the job and how to gain citizenship.

Since its founding five years ago, the mostly immigrant-run coalition has registered more than 5,000 immigrants to vote, said David Lubell, state director of TIRRC.

Among those the group helped register to vote was Esneda Hargrove.

An immigrant from Colombia who has also lived in Tripoli, Libya, and Singapore, Hargrove plans to use her vote to increase the Hispanic voting power, she said.

"They (politicians) don't take immigrants seriously until they realize their power," said Hargrove, 55, of Nashville. "Coalitions help us unite, and there is a Spanish saying that says unity makes strength."

After registering to vote, Hargrove ventured over to the new voting machines to get a preview of what she will be using to cast her vote in the next election.

Like Hargrove, Juan Moreno would like to one day be able to use the new voting machines to select the politicians who represent him, but he has to wait until he can actually become a citizen before he even thinks about it, he said.

For more information about TIRRC, call 615-833-0384 or visit

Copyright 2006, The Tennessean.