Fourteen immigrant assistance programs new residents should know about

Ask anyone new to Oklahoma and they will talk about the friendliness of the Oklahoman people. It’s sometimes referred to as the “Oklahoma Standard—a belief system shaped by tragedy that means Oklahomans act in kindness and help their neighbors, without hesitation or expecting anything in return.

Beyond individuals, many organizations in Oklahoma City are centered around helping those in need. When you’re new to the United States and to Oklahoma, you don’t have to feel alone or overwhelmed, because you’ll find many Oklahomans ready to lend a helping hand. The fourteen organizations and programs listed below aim specifically to help new residents find their place as Oklahomans.

Aspiring Americans

http://www.aspiringamericans.org/

Aspiring Americans provides education, financing, and guidance to undocumented students in Oklahoma pursuing higher education. It’s a common misconception that noncitizens can’t attend college, but this nonprofit is working to change that belief. Oklahoma has laws that allow people to attend college and apply for private scholarships without legal status. Aspiring Americans helps students apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). They also help fundraise for scholarships and offer one-on-one counseling.

Catholic Charities of Oklahoma

https://catholiccharitiesok.org/get-help/refugee-services

Catholic Charities’ Refugee Resettlement Program assists refugees and Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holders integrate into the community up to six months after arriving in the United States. The services the program provides include food, housing, clothing, financial assistance, employment opportunities, and referrals to other community partners.

Dream Action Oklahoma

https://daok.org/

Dream Action Oklahoma, formerly DREAM Act Oklahoma, is a youth-led, community-based organization that empowers the local immigrant community by promoting education, civic engagement, and community service.

The group began in 2009 at the Tulsa Community College as the Hispanic Student Association. According to their website, “When our students began to encounter issues regarding their undocumented status, DREAM Act Oklahoma was formed to serve the community through activism and advocacy.”

Oklahoma Department of Human Services

http://www.okdhs.org/services/ref/Pages/default.aspx

Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) provides resources for refugees needing assistance. Help is available up to eight months after the refugee arrives in the US. Refugee status must be granted by the USCIS.

OKDHS provides a wide range of assistance programs, including adult protective services, child-care, low-income home energy assistance, federal social service grants, and developmental disability services.  

The Common

https://www.thecommonokc.com/

The Common is a nonprofit program that is part of the Spero Project, a Christian-based community service organization. The Common offers a wide range of assistance to new residents, including a place to host community gatherings and celebrations; youth mentoring; and aid in medical needs, finding employment and housing, and navigating the social services system.

The Common is run by volunteers who dedicate their time by offering tutoring, rides to various locations, life skill classes, citizenship test preparation, and critical care in emergencies. A unique benefit of this program is the meaningful relationships created between the volunteers and those they help.  

Metropolitan Library

http://www.metrolibrary.org/citizenship

The Metropolitan Library is full of free resources and materials on citizenship, the immigration process, and other related topics. Multiple locations in the Metropolitan Library system also offer a free 15-week citizenship class, which helps prepare people for the naturalization test and interview. Your local library is also an excellent resource for community events, computer access, and free programs for children.  

Oklahoma City Community College

http://www.occc.edu/coe/citizenship.html

The Oklahoma City Community College also offers a free citizenship class to help people prepare for the naturalization test. They place a particular focus on the N-400 application, including how to answer difficult questions, how to talk to the immigration office, and practical English-speaking skills.

Oklahoma City Literacy Coalition

https://okcliteracycoalition.org/findservices/esl/

The Oklahoma City Literacy Coalition offers free English as a second language (ESL) and citizenship classes throughout the OKC metro area.

Dress for Success Oklahoma City

https://oklahomacity.dressforsuccess.org/about-us/

Dress for Success provides women with free professional clothing to wear during job interviews. The nonprofit organization gives underprivileged women in Oklahoma City the tools and support they need to enter the workforce. The women they help must be referred by a referral agency, and must have an interview scheduled to receive clothing.

According to their website, “our clients come to us from a continually expanding and diverse group of non-profit and government agencies including homeless shelters, immigration services, job training programs, educational institutions, government agencies and domestic violence shelters; among many other organizations.”

Tulsa YWCA

https://www.ywcatulsa.org/pages/downtown_0/

The Tulsa YWCA runs a Spanish-language helpline, Tele-Ayuda, that assists people from all over the country, not just in Tulsa, in accessing community resources and help with the immigration process. In addition to the helpline, the Tulsa YWCA, partnered with the United Way, serves the people of Tulsa through health and wellness services, immigrant and refugee services, and racial justice and women’s empowerment programs.

Immigrant and refugee services available include employment assistance, interpreting and translation assistance, social service referrals, English language classes, and help with permanent resident applications.  

Oklahoma City University

https://www.okcu.edu/admissions/international/immigration

Although this website is intended for international students attending Oklahoma City University, it also contains helpful information and links for all international students looking to obtain and maintain a student F-1 visa. Resources include PowerPoint presentations on how to maintain an I-20 visa and how to travel outside the US while on a student visa.

CAIR Oklahoma

http://ok.cair.com/  

CAIR-OK’s mission is “to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.” The organization provides many opportunities to get involved in the Muslim community through art events, “Know Your Rights” workshops, high school outreach programs, youth leadership events, and volunteer opportunities.

Snap Food Stamps

http://www.okdhs.org/services/snap/Pages/default.aspx

This program is offered in Oklahoma through the Oklahoma Department of Human Services and provides low-income families with monthly monetary assistance to buy specific food that fits within the program’s nutrition requirements. To be eligible, you must have legal residency status and meet the employment requirements.

Variety Care

http://www.varietycare.org/

Variety Care is a nationwide nonprofit medical clinic with multiple locations around the Oklahoma City metro area. They provide care to everyone, regardless of income, ability to pay, or residency status. Because Variety Care is a federally qualified health center, they don’t need to ask about your legal situation. The clinic provides services such as pregnancy care, dentistry, optometry, family medicine, and discounted prescriptions.

 

As well as the organizations in this list, you’ll find many other state and national resources to help make your transition as a new Oklahoma resident easier.

One of Oklahoma’s best resources is its people. Your new Oklahoman friends, neighbors, and co-workers will be happy to help answer your questions about the culture of OKC, the places to visit, shared traditions and celebrations, and the best places to eat. But, most of all, they can provide friendship during a challenging time in your life. Whatever the reason is that brought you to Oklahoma, know that you are in good hands.

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