A citizenship doubleheader is coming to Towson with a swearing-in ceremony tomorrow for 40 new citizens and a
workshop Saturday expected to draw more than 100 immigrants who want to follow the new citizens' example.
The three sponsoring groups say it will be the first time for either type of event in Baltimore County.
Manuel E. Alban, chairman of the Baltimore County Hispanic Advisory Council, said the idea is to encourage more immigrants all nationalities who have been longtime residents to become citizens by simplifying the process.
"The community at large has a tendency to wait 14 to 15 years to become a citizen," Mr. Alban said. He said the thinking by immigrants often is, "We love our country; we're going to go back one day."
However, once people live here, get jobs, learn English and begin to assimilate, they rarely go back to their native lands, he said. Immigrants are eligible for U.S. citizenship after five years.
The council, the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Maryland Office for New Americans are sponsoring the two days of activities.
Richard Caterisano, acting deputy district director of the Baltimore office of the INS, said the new citizens will be sworn in in the ceremonial courtroom of the old courthouse.
The local INS office has been trying to move the ceremonies to sites other than federal courtrooms downtown since 1990, when responsibility for the ceremonies shifted from the federal judiciary to the attorney general's office, Mr. Caterisano said.
The INS will have two officers at Saturday's workshop at Towson State University to dispense applications, answer questions and help people apply for citizenship. Applications fees are $95 and a $20 charge pays for other services that will be offered.
Forty volunteers, some proficient in languages other than English, will be at the workshop to help individuals determine if they have lived here the required five years and have met other citizenship qualifications.
Martin Ford, spokesman for the Maryland Office for New Americans, said a photographer will be present Saturday to take pictures needed for applications. And, Adrienne Jones, director of the county Office of Minority Affairs, arranged for county police to be present both days to provide fingerprinting needed for the applications.
The workshop is at "the cutting edge" of thinking about helping promote citizenship among immigrants, Mr. Ford said. Similar workshops were held in the last year in Prince George's County and Baltimore City.
"We hope to do a half dozen more this year," he said. "Some people think they need a lawyer and have to pay lots of money and miss days of work" to become citizens. The workshops help dispel that notion.
Mr. Alban, who prints and distributes a weekly Spanish-language newspaper with a circulation of 5,000, said the county's Hispanic population is growing even faster than the 51 percent increase the census recorded between 1980 and 1990. The census showed 8,100 Hispanic people in the county in 1990, predominantly in suburbs around the Beltway. That's mainly because most come from rural areas in their own countries, not from big cities, he said.
He said most Hispanic people in Maryland live in Montgomery and Prince George's counties.
Mr. Alban, a native Ecuadorean who came here in 1965 and became a citizen 21 years ago, said the 19-member Hispanic Advisory Council is promoting the workshop because "we want to participate fully in the civic affairs of this country."