FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A statewide nonprofit is set to receive a historic grant Wednesday.
A $250,000 grant from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to Arkansas United will be used to help immigrants on their path to getting their American citizenship. Arkansas United founding executive director Mireya Reith says this is the first time in Arkansas state history that a federal grant has been bestowed to help with immigration.
“We’re doing a needs assessment with these partners across the state with the goal of helping 16,000 [immigrants] be able to make sure we understand what are those different supports they need for their citizenship process,” Reith said.
The grant is offered through October 2025. Arkansas United’s initial goal is to get 16,000 Northwest Arkansan immigrants get naturalized. The organization says approximately 35,000 residents in the state don’t have their American citizenship, but across the next two years it hopes to change that.
Carlos Bera immigrated from Mexico four years ago and is currently going through the process of becoming a United States citizen. He said the 10 steps the USCIS outlines to become a citizen are difficult, especially due to the language barrier.
“You need to learn English,” Bera said. “You need to get an I.D., Social Security, and that’s hard.”
Reith said it costs anywhere between $800 and as much as $3,000 to get a person the necessary resources to become a naturalized American citizen.
Bera says a program like the one Arkansas United is offering helps relieve the financial burden of going through the process.
“If anyone is trying to help you pay on everything,” Bera said. “That’s a good point and a good solution.”
Arkansas United is hosting a virtual information session Wednesday morning that is open for people to register for. People, businesses and organizations can also partner with Arkansas United to help provide immigrant naturalization support, while the organization also provides direct support for immigrants who need help.