As immigration reform begins to create new opportunities for undocumented immigrants, a retired local teacher is working to offer free classes to help residents take the next step toward citizenship.
Rudy Calooy taught for 35 years at Fort Hood before starting his citizenship and English as a Second Language classes, which begin Saturday at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Killeen.
The classes will be offered every Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m. at the church, 2903 E. Rancier Ave.
Calooy said he helped thousands of Korean and German immigrants pass their citizenship exams through education programs based at Fort Hood, the Killeen Independent School District and Central Texas College.
Since then, he has continued to see a need for citizenship and English classes in Killeen’s adult community.
“I’m getting about five calls a day,” Calooy said.
“A lot of them have green cards but they don’t yet have enough civic, history or English skills to pass the test. I want to make sure everybody out of my classes passes the test.”
One major impetus for starting the classes was a recent federal memorandum called Deferred Action for Child Immigrants, which was implemented by President Barack Obama in June.
Although not a direct route to citizenship, Deferred Action allows high school and college graduates, who came to the U.S. at or before the age of 16, to apply to work legally, some after living more than 20 years in the U.S.
“It doesn’t make any sense to run them through the colleges and university systems just to kick them out of the country,” Calooy said.
“These are citizens who are going to support the old people that are retiring now.”
Raúl Villaronga, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens Council 4535, said he also supports the immigration reform and efforts to assimilate immigrants into the community.
“We promote bilingual folks,” Villaronga said.
“We’re very proud of the effort Mr. Calooy is putting into these classes.”
Villaronga said he and LULAC also have supported other proposed immigration reform that could bring more young Latinos into legal status.
“There are a lot of kids who came to the U.S. at a young age with the parents and are here for no fault of their own,” Villaronga said. “We need to find out how to make this work so they can be productive citizens.”
For more information, call Calooy at (254) 699-2568.