Daniela Jacuzzi, an Italian immigrant who became a citizen July 29, 2011, shares her experience during a Sept. 17 Citizenship Day celebration organized by the Crosier Fathers and Brothers.

More than 100 years ago, three Crosiers traveled to to Minnesota with dutch immigrants. The Crosier Fathers and Brothers have served Catholics in the United States as well as the immigrant population ever since.

“So when the community moved to Phoenix, it was natural for the Crosiers to set up assistance for the immigrants,” Crosier Father David Donnay said during a Sept. 17 Citizenship Day event. The Crosiers moved their U.S. province headquarters to Phoenix in 2007.

Daniela Jacuzzi, a member of the Companions of the Holy Cross and an Italian immigrant, became a citizen July 29, 2011. She knows firsthand of the difficulties immigrants face.

“This year I will finally be able to vote for the president of the United States,” Jacuzzi said, adding that she’d lived in the country for 30 years.

Crosier Brother Jim Lewandowski leads a six-week citizenship class to prepare eligible immigrants for the citizenship exam and interview. Bro. Jim has also worked with immigrant communities in Nebraska and Minnesota.

“Most of the students are motivated because they want to vote and want to become full-fledged Americans,” he said. “Once they become citizens, they can file for family members in other countries through family petitions.”

Bro. Jim said language can be a challenge, but noted that the Crosiers have been blessed with volunteer translators.

Maria Candelaria de Rodriguez said it took her 13 years to become a permanent resident. She started the  process of becoming a citizen to feel more secure living in the country.

“It has been difficult,” she said of being an immigrant. “Becoming a citizen restores the dignity of the person. It gives you back your identity.”

Her husband, Francisco, has been a legal resident since 1986, but just became a citizen this January. “Procrastination,” he said, simply. Being a citizen means he doesn’t have to reapply for permanent residency and pay the accompanying fee.

The couple, parishioners at St. Gregory, say others ask them about the immigration process.

Immigrants should beware of notaries — so-called “notarios” — who charge unreasonable rates for often dishonest services. These notarios will often promise immigrants paths to residency or citizenship that simply aren’t available, charging high fees to fill out simple paperwork.

Instead, participants in the Citizenship Day event encouraged immigrants to seek help from the Crosiers and Catholic Charities Community Services. Both are committed to giving immigrants fair, honest counsel at minimal or no cost.

Constitution Day and Citizenship Day commemorate the Sept. 17, 1787 signing of the Constitution.

For more information, visit www.crosier.org and www.catholiccharitiesaz.org or call Bro. Jim, (602) 769-7744.