Help for Hawaii immigrants

Paul Luu
Paul Luu
John Egan
John Egan

By Paul Drewes bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Many times filling out mounds of paperwork can turn into a nightmare. But for dozens, putting ink to the paper is an important first step toward fulfilling a dream.

At Honolulu Community College, dozens of eager faces await help in the first step to become a US citizen.

"I want greatly to become a US citizen, because back in the Philippines lots of people would love to become a US citizen," said Ida Tacadena.

Ida is not alone, there is a constant stream of legal immigrants applying.

"We're a nation of immigrants, especially here in Hawaii, that's part of our history," said John Egan, with the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

But along with an introduction to America's history and rights of citizens,

nearly 50 immigrants are becoming familiar with another US custom - red tape.

There's a lot of paperwork to start the citizenship process.

That is where Paul Luu comes in.

He not only understands what needs to be done, but also what these immigrants are going through.

"I came here as a refugee with my parents, my siblings back in 1985," said the Vietnamese immigrant.

Since that time, he has become a US citizen. And now works to help those who want the same thing.

To do so, immigrants must not only pay a fee of nearly 700-dollars, for many, they need to learn our language. As well as study American civics, and even pass a test.

Daunting tasks for some, coming from countries where education is not as readily available.

"I was really frightened to fill out form or wonder if answer was correct or not," said Luu.

So along with the legal help from volunteering attorneys, a citizenship fair gives immigrants some emotional support to help them make their dream come true.

"I think that all other people who come in, that appreciates the freedom we have in the US. And I really want to help them to get the benefits that I have, to become a citizen of the United State," added Luu.

There are usually three citizenship fairs held each year on Oahu, giving immigrants a chance to get the help they need for free.

And while another is being planned, the date for the next one has not yet been set.