The Immigrant Assistance Center in New Bedford has been active for more than 50 years, helping immigrants feel comfortable as possible in their new surroundings.

What started as a program to assist mainly Portuguese immigrants now sees new faces from around the world.

In recent years, the IAC has worked to re-settle families, individuals, and unaccompanied children from violence-torn Central American nations, along with families from Afghanistan fleeing the rule of the Taliban.

IAC President Helena DaSilva Hughes joined Townsquare Sunday this week to discuss the center's important work.

Hughes said the organization's main focus right now is citizenship, with applications increasing more than 300 percent over the past two years.

"Citizenship is the best way to protect our immigrant communities who are green card holders who qualify for citizenship, so they don't become victims of immigration laws," she said.

Hughes added that citizenship is also the best way for immigrant communities to be involved in American life and to register to vote.

Workforce readiness is also part of what the IAC does, and Hughes said learning English is a skill that all immigrants should master.

"English is so important," she said. "If you don't speak the language, you're going to have a hard time getting a job."

Hughes said new classes are starting soon, and people should contact the IAC.

The organization is also celebrating its 53rd anniversary this year with a fundraising gala on May 12 at the Kilburn Events Center in New Bedford's South End. For ticket information, visit the Immigrants Assistance Center website or call the IAC at (508) 996-8113.

The complete interview with Helena DaSilva Hughes can be heard here:

Townsquare Sunday is a weekly public affairs program heard every Sunday morning at 6 a.m. and 11 a.m. on WBSM.

The program highlights individuals and organizations striving to improve the quality of life for people living and working on the SouthCoast.

If you would like your organization featured on Townsquare Sunday, please contact the host at

Celebrating Wampanoag Heritage in Sandwich

The history and culture of the Wampanoag tribe is celebrated each year at Wampanoag Heritage Day, held at Heritage Museums and Gardens in Sandwich. Photos courtesy of Judith Goetz.

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