A nonprofit organization founded in October 2001, the Immigrant Workers Citizenship Project (IWCP) works closely with the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride Coalition. Operating with a full-time staff of six employees, IWCP defines it mission as one of helping newcomers to the United States achieve the “full dignity of American life” through U.S. citizenship. To aspiring citizens, the organization offers free English classes, civics classes, assistance with citizenship applications, and help in preparing for the mandatory test and oral interview that are prerequisites for citizenship. Candidates for citizenship pay IWCP $310 to cover the cost of the government’s application ($260) and government-mandated fingerprinting ($50). During its first eighteen months of operation, IWCP assisted 1,863 “clients” (an average of about 103 per month). Approximately half of its clientele hails from Mexico. IWCP also has programs to help immigrants and refugees get “food, clothing, shelter, transportation, [and] the best job possible.”
IWCP maintains its offices in an Episcopal Church building in Las Vegas, Nevada, but its influence and political connections extend far beyond that state. The organization seeks to help unions increase their membership and political influence by accelerating the process of residency and citizenship. It has found its primary sponsor in the Culinary Union (the Las Vegas local of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International, or HERE) and the Union of Needle Trades and Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE). The Culinary Union has 50,000 members, the vast majority of whom are Hispanic.
IWCP also registers Hispanic immigrants so as to increase Latino political clout. As Silas Shwarver, the Executive Director of the Project, has candidly stated, “These are a lot of potential voters.”
IWCP was founded by the Rev. Phil Carolin, an Episcopal priest, along with several union representatives. (Aurelio Carrillo, a Vice President of HERE, is on permanent loan from Culinary 226 to assist the IWCP staff. The Culinary Union and HERE have been among the most outspoken in demanding full protection not only for legal immigrants, but also for illegal aliens.) IWCP has likewise sought to make the deportation of illegals a practical as well as a legal impossibility.
IWCP has received funding from the Arca Foundation, the Blum-Kovler Foundation, the California Endowment, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Ford Foundation, the J.M. Kaplan Fund, the Open Society Institute, the Stewart R. Mott Charitable Trust, and the Rockefeller Foundation.