The United States citizenship process is no easy task, but Bonding Against Adversity is striving to help members of the community complete the process from start to finish.
Thomas Burdette, president and chief executive officer of Bonding Against Adversity, and Mariana Sanchez, chief operation officer, created BAA in April 2010. The two had been working with the Aldine community for seven years before the organization officially opened its doors.
“From my experience working with the community, I realized the services being offered to the community were not services aligned with what immigrant families needed,” Sanchez explained. “The community needed more information about safe immigration in the U.S. to address their fears.”
Sanchez filled the void with BAA, offering immigration workshops, citizenship classes, and parenting programs. The programs provide assistance for Lawful Permanent Residents who are qualified to, and want to become, U.S. citizens.
Most of the people they serve are unable to afford the cost of citizenship preparation and the application process and have limited English language capability.
BAA is knocking down these barriers by assisting more than 1,200 Lawful Permanent Residents each year in becoming U.S. citizens.
The nonprofit has a mission to help others help themselves — giving people a hand up and not a hand out. BAA partners with educational institutions, faith-based organizations, local businesses and passionate volunteers who believe in the mission.
Initially the organization was self-funded. Now funding is provided through grants, business and community contributions and small fees for some of the limited legal services it provides.
BAA has assisted citizens from over 20 countries and nationalities.
Aldine community member Stephanie Clarke-Brooks credits BAA with helping her through her citizenship process. She was born in Monrovia, Liberia came to the United States at age 11. She remembers filling out her family’s forms to be granted Temporary Protective Status, which is provided to nationals of designated countries that are confronting an ongoing armed conflict, environmental disaster or other extraordinary conditions.
Organizations like BAA “should be all over the United States to help people who cannot afford to hire lawyers to help them fill out their forms,” Clarke-Brooks said. “They provide services that all immigrants can benefit from if made available to them.”
Clarke-Brooks recalled how good it felt to take the oath of citizenship at a ceremony along with someone she had assisted through the process.
“The real reward is seeing a person succeed because of their own efforts,” Burdette.
Sanchez echoed his sentiments and explained, “We would not be able to continue to provide our services without the support of our army of volunteers, extended family and the generosity of others.”
For those looking to volunteer or partner with Bonding Against Adversity, there are multiple opportunities to work with people in one-on-one settings, train to lead citizenship preparation classes, and for youth to volunteer at community events.
To volunteer, donate or request services, go to baatexas.org, which is updated with all upcoming events and workshops.
The need for immigration services in the community has not disappeared during the pandemic. BAA has moved workshops and classes online but is also taking in-person appointments. Appointment requests can be made by calling 281-799-9076 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bonding Against Diversity offices:
250 N. Sam Houston Parkway East
2430 Aldine Mail Route
—By Valonia Walker