Conference offers guidance to would-be U.S. citizens

Conference offers guidance to would-be U.S. citizens

URBANA — Brigitte Tshibola has just been put through the wringer in a series of questions about the duties of citizenship.

She came through with flying colors — American colors — in her 15-minute practice citizenship interview at the Urbana Adult Education Center on Saturday.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' Chicago district office and the University of Illinois YMCA sponsored the conference, which included information on getting a green card, becoming a U.S. citizen, how children become U.S. citizens and other legal matters.

Gloria Yen, director of the YMCA's New American Welcome Center, said about 35 potential citizens attended, and in only the second year the session has been offered with the USCIS.

USCIS officer Maria del Carmen Rodriguez conducted Tshibola's question-and-answer session, which included several questions about service to our country as well as if there had ever been legal problems.

But there could also be lighter questions for participants to learn, such as when Thanksgiving is.

Tshibola is from Congo and speaks good English, has lived here more than five years and also speaks French.

She, her husband and two sons were able to leave Congo through an immigration lottery, she said.

In her former country, she was a computer technician, but doesn't want to do that here.

"I like to provide service to people, and sometimes volunteer at King School," she said.

Also from Congo was Bijou Owamba, who has been here 10 years and works at Dart Solo Cup.

"America is the land of freedom," she said.

Yen said the new YMCA program works in concert with Urbana Adult Education Center.

She acknowledged that legal assistance for immigrants remains a challenge, but here people are able to see lawyers more affordably with the help of a state grant.

Besides educational work, there are also resources for health care and housing, Yen said.