Bonding Against Adversity, (BAA) located in Houston, TX, is a community non-profit organization that helps people become U.S. citizens, aiding with immigration, integration, and education since 2010. This past year, BAA organized a collaborative project with Harris County Public Library to provide citizenship assistance to eligible lawful permanent residents (LPRs) in the Harris County area. Mariana Sanchez, CEO of BAA, and Sandy Ochoa, Office Administration Specialist, shared with the Citizenshipworks Team how this project came to life.
The project started in November 2019. BAA's goal was to build capacity for the organization and help reach the thousands of LPRs that become eligible in Harris County. There are 27 locations in the Harris County Library system, which Mariana felt was the perfect way to reach pockets of people that they would not be able to reach otherwise. The typical BAA client is age 50+ and of Mexican ethnicity. Through the library project, BAA has reached applicants of a broader age range and from different countries, like India, China, and the Philippines.
To plan for the high volume of applicants, Mariana asked local partners for help, including the Chinese Community Center, BPSOS, Texas Center for Community Services, and NALEO Houston. This collaboration was helpful in assisting with application review and in sharing resources, best practices, and outreach work.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic halted their work in 2020, forcing the libraries to close. While waiting for in-person assistance to resume, BAA decided to continue their project remotely. Named the "ABC’s of Citizenship," BAA's collaboration with the Harris County Public Library finally launched this January of 2021.
With Phase 1 of the project now in place, BAA and its partners began registering eligible LPRs for presentations. The presentations offer eligibility screenings and cover how to use Citizenshipworks. From now until December 2021, Mariana and Sandy have 20 presentations scheduled. Once applicants are screened, they are assigned to a partner for legal review. Phase 2 and Phase 3 will be a transition into in-person work as the libraries re-open.
Mariana and Sandy work with Univision, local newspapers, and community faith organizations to share the news about the project. Interested Harris County applicants can receive assistance with their citizenship application free of charge.
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