GREATER LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - December 1st is Giving Tuesday, a popular unofficial holiday meant to inspire people to donate to important causes after spending money and time shopping for themselves on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. One local couple is challenging the community to support the Lafayette Urban Ministry Immigration Clinic this giving season.
According to its website, the LUM Immigration Clinic helps individuals from other countries, who are legally in the US, to navigate the often difficult and confusing Immigration and Naturalization Service bureaucracy. They provide citizenship classes and other important resources to help immigrants become members of this country.
Like most of us who are Americans and not Indigenous Peoples, Tanuja and Ketan Sheth have a personal connection to immigration.
"My husband himself is an immigrant and my parents came to this country in 1964 from India," said Tanuja.
She said they came to this country for better opportunities in education and their careers, but there is a difference in their path to becoming U.S. citizens.
"They did not have to struggle with the immense amount of paper work and they had a lot of support for what they were doing," she said. "This is not the case with many of the immigrants that LUM serves today."
They want to motivate the community to help. Every year, LUM hosts the Port of Hope fundraiser to help them continue operating. Like most other traditionally in-person events, it moved virtual this year due to the pandemic. The Sheths had concern that LUM wouldn't meet its necessary fundraising goal to continue its Immigration Clinic running at full capacity, and they want to get the rest of the community involved in the cause.
"We came to the conclusion that if we put it out there that $30,000 would get people a little bit motivated, we would match donations for the LUM Immigration Clinic," she said.
According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration website, nearly 850,000 people became citizens in 2019. It can take anywhere from 6 months to one year to finalize a citizenship from the start of the application process. According to the American Immigration Council, one in 20 people living in Indiana are from another country and there were nearly 9,000 DACA recipients living in Indiana in March of 2020. And according to Census Reporter, about 21% of the population of the WLFI viewing area are immigrants.
"We need to make sure there are proper pathways for legal status, for proper residency and for eventually becoming U.S. citizens," she said.
COVID has also had a hard impact on the naturalization process. USCIS suspended all in-person services for the first three months of the pandemic and has slowly reopened. Naturalization ceremonies were also postponed until June, delaying thousands from becoming citizens.
"We need to make sure the Immigration Clinic is funded because it is a really important service that LUM offers," emphasized Sheth.
She said people are coming to this community from every corner of the world. From the immigrants who come to this community for Purdue to further educational opportunities, to the ones who come here to make Lafayette and surrounding counties their homes, starting businesses and families and putting down roots, immigrants are vital to our community. And the Sheths want to pay their good fortune forward.
"We want to make sure that the immigrants of today have those same opportunities that were given to the immigrants of the past," she said, and she's confident they will reach their goal.
Tanuja said there is no set end date for the donation match. Click here to donate to the Immigration Clinic.