WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA) --- Latino and Resource Justice Center or CARECEN is a community-based, non-profit organization that assists immigrants from Latin Americathrough the citizenship process.

The United States welcomes 3,000 new citizens daily, according to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

"CARECEN has the people that teach you everything so that we understand," said Maria Gomez, 51. Gomez came to the United States in 1990 to escape the Civil War in her native country of El Salvador.

Gomez became a citizen in August, 2012. She looks forward to taking part in the democratic process. Gomez says being a permanent resident was not enough.

"I want to vote this year...When I vote I have a voice," said Gomez as she shows her citizenship certificate and U.S. passport.

CARECEN offers a 10-week citizenship course that covers U.S. history and government to prepare immigrants for the citizenship exam and interview.

"Ninety percent who participate in the classes...pass the test," said Ana Negoescu, Director of Education and Advocacy.

CARECEN charges $50 for class registration and $25 for books.
The citizenship application costs $680, according to the Dept. of Homeland Security.

"It's a difficult amount to save especially in today's economy...Many people have postponed because of that," Negoescu said.

CARECEN provides scholarships for those unable to afford these costs.

MariaNuñez received a scholarship. She took English classes and the citizenship exam preparation classes.In September, 2012, shepassed the naturalization exam.The owner of a Latino restaurant immigrated to the United States in 1990 from Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

"When I first came to this country, I said one day, I will be a [citizen] of this country, because this is the best country in the world," said Nuñez.

NOTE: Gannett Foundation have given a donation to CARECEN.

Written/Produced by: Elizabeth Jia

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