I had the pleasure of visiting the International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit last week. The Institute has been a fixture in downtown Detroit for 95 years. While there, I took time for a cup of tea in their international café and observed people coming and going over the lunch hour: African Americans, Euro-Americans, Arabs, South Asians, Europeans, Southeast Asians, and others—truly representative of their "international" moniker!
During the visit, I was lucky to chat with Executive Director Wojciech Zolnowski, who told me about all the terrific services offered at the IIMD. In addition to ESL classes, and cultural events, they offer immigration counseling services. In fact, they were instrumental in getting citizenship for a senior citizen from Poland, whose story we covered earlier this year.
As American citizens, my family and I take for granted so many benefits that come with our citizenship. According to the Institute, they are numerous:
1. Voting in federal elections
2. Running for federal office
3. Access to public benefits
4. Retention of retirement income
5. Petitioning for family members
6. Unlimited travel with U.S. passport
7. Citizenship for resident children under 18
8. Protection from deportation
9. Unlimited re-entry into the U.S.
10. Eligibility for government jobs
Of course, with these benefits comes responsibility to contribute to one’s local community and the nation. From past conversations with immigrants to this country, I know this is something they take very seriously, something which continues to make the U.S. a great place to live and belong!