Meet Anna Springer, the immigration and citizenship program coordinator with the International Rescue Committee in Salt Lake City. Springer assists clients with family petitions and immigration applications and oversees the citizenship preparation classes. Read more to learn how being a citizenship navigator and working with refugees challenges her, both personally and professionally.
Why do you enjoy working with refugees?
From my experience, refugees are some of the most interesting and inspiring people I have had the pleasure of meeting. Despite the trauma and loss they have experienced, they continue to show such openness, such generosity and such love for their family and community. Working with refugees has challenged me to become more aware and be more open as an individual.
What inspired you to enter this field of work?
In high school I sponsored a child in Rwanda and helped with school fees and nutrition assistance. It was through this program that I became aware of the 1884 genocide there, which led to wanting to learn about other refugees around the world. I was in college when I stumbled upon the International Rescue Committee in Salt Lake City. It was my dream job. The more I work in immigration, the more I enjoy helping refugees navigate the system through our complex immigration laws.
Why did you decided to join the Citizenship Navigator program?
I was drawn to the community of service providers, as well as the opportunities for professional development. I enjoy being able to learn from others.
In your opinion, what do your clients gain from becoming a U.S. citizen?
One of the greatest benefits of becoming a U.S. citizen is the sense of belonging. Some of my clients have not visited their home countries in years and some have not been able to return. When a person becomes a U.S. citizen, it is as if our entire country is saying to them “you belong here.” Regardless of where they were born, what their ethnicity is, or what they look like, once they are a U.S. citizen they are American. I love that! I love that "American" can mean any culture. Also the sense of accomplishment must be so rewarding. They work so hard and the naturalization process can be incredibly intimidating.
In your experience, what hurdles does a refugee face in working to obtain U.S. citizenship?
Dealing with the loss and trauma that many refugees have experienced, and coming to the U.S. to try and rebuild their lives can be a major hurdle to overcome. There are so many confusing things about American culture – our obsessions with time, money, our focus on individualism, our politics and even our laws – can be confusing to navigate, especially with limited English. Also preparing for the test and being able to understand the questions on the application can be very frustrating and intimidating.
So far what have you found most beneficial about the Citizenship Navigator Program?
It’s nice to feel connected to other immigration service providers and feel that sense of support and togetherness. Especially right now as there is some insecurity and fear in our country. It is nice to feel like we are all in this together, I’ve also really enjoyed the innovative ideas provided by other members.
What lessons do you seek most as you continue participating in the Citizenship Navigator program?
I look forward to continued innovations and new ideas for helping people apply for citizenship as they prepare for the interview.