Jesus came to the U.S. from Cuba more than 30 years ago to escape communism. He calls the U.S. “the No. 1 country in the world. Everybody wants to come here.”
In Cuba, people have few choices, he said. “You get one loaf of bread, one pound of sausage, one pound of beans, half a pound of beef and half a chicken for 30 days.’’
He came to Catholic Charities of West Tennessee several years ago to apply for his legal permanent residency and received his green card. Having this document makes life in the U.S. easier, which is especially important now that Jesus is older and struggling with diabetes. At 68, Jesus has lived in the U.S. for more than half of his life and worked odd jobs, but primarily in landscaping, all while paying federal and Social Security taxes.
Although 70 percent of immigrants in the U.S. are in the workforce, which is the same percentage as native-born Americans, a higher percentage of immigrants live in poverty because they lacked access to education in their home countries.
Jesus has been in and out of homelessness and recently was sleeping at a men’s shelter because the low-income housing facility where he was living was infested with bed bugs and violence.
He has come back to Catholic Charities to work with the Immigration Services program to prepare for the naturalization test and interview, which are required to become an American citizen. He is excited about becoming an American citizen because he will be able be able to vote.
Catholic Charities offers consultation services to immigrants at an extremely discounted rate. Without this service, people like Jesus would face standard attorney fees for these services.
“I just have a few more years to live,” he says. “I want to be an American citizen before God tells me to come on home.’’
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