In September 2012, CLINIC concluded a two-year, national capacity building grant from the USCIS Office of Citizenship. Through this grant, CLINIC provided flow-through funding and technical assistance to four local affiliates to help them establish new programs in citizenship education and/or citizenship legal services. The four affiliates were Catholic Charities of Buffalo, NY; Catholic Charities of Cleveland, OH; Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan; and Catholic Charities of Stockton, CA. The goals of this project were to expand citizenship services for lawful permanent residents (LPRs) in underserved communities and to build the long-term capacity of the local affiliates to provide these services. Three of the four affiliates needed to obtain Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) recognition and accreditation.
CLINIC conducted a final evaluation of the project and submitted a report on its findings to the funder in December 2012. The evaluation indicated that all four of the local affiliates are now BIA-recognized and authorized to provide immigration legal services; two of the agencies have attorneys and two have BIA-accredited representatives on staff. All four programs have strong, sustainable citizenship legal service programs, while two of the four programs have created strong and sustainable citizenship education services. These legal and educational services meet the benchmarks identified by CLINIC for quality and professionalism. One of the affiliates, Catholic Charities of Stockton, received a highly competitive, direct services grant from the Office of Citizenship in October 2013 to help sustain and grow its citizenship program.
Collectively, the four local affiliates provided citizenship education services to 496 students; naturalization eligibility screening and advice to 1,010 LPRs; and prepared and submitted 529 citizenship applications. To date, 328 LPRs have successfully naturalized under this project, and the overall approval rate across all four sites (for both students and non-students) was 78 percent. Collectively, the project served LPRs from 63 countries, with the highest numbers of LPRs from Mexico, Somalia, Liberia, Sudan, Iraq, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Many of the clients served by this project were refugees and farmworkers, who have special challenges in the naturalization process such as low levels of literacy and formal education.
CLINIC’s final evaluation identified a number of best practices developed under this project, including the following examples:
Sustainability: Catholic Charities of Buffalo uses trained volunteers to teach the citizenship classes with oversight from a paid staff person. The use of volunteers rather than paid teachers significantly reduces the cost of the program and also gives it more flexibility to grow as needed and to add more classes or more levels in additional locations.
Increasing Legal Capacity: Catholic Charities of Cleveland partnered with a local law school that provides student interns to increase the agency’s capacity for citizenship legal services. The interns, supervised by the immigration attorney, assist with legal research and case management.
Serving Vulnerable Groups: Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan partnered with a low-income senior housing center to provide citizenship classes on site for the residents. The housing center provided a beautiful space for the classes and paid the teacher’s salary. By bringing the classes to low-income immigrants where they live, Catholic Charities was able to overcome common challenges related to transportation and student attendance and bring its services to a vulnerable population.
Support Services: Catholic Charities of Stockton offers on-site childcare services during its three-hour evening classes so parents can attend. The babysitter, who is paid by Catholic Charities, provides a structured schedule for the children to keep them busy with learning and entertained while their parents are in class.
CLINIC developed the following free, online resources during the project period: 12 webinars on educational and legal services; 2 podcasts on naturalization; 2 updated handbooks; a self-directed, e-learning course for volunteers; and a toolkit on case management. All resources are available on the CLINIC website (www.cliniclegal.org/resources), except for the podcasts, which are on the Immigration Advocates Network website (www.immigrationadvocates.org).
The work of CLINIC’s Citizenship and Integration National Capacity Building Project continues through a second, two-year Office of Citizenship grant that was received in 2011. The second grant, which ends in September 2013, funds affiliates in Indianapolis, IN; Los Angeles, CA; Syracuse, NY; and Worcester, MA. For more information about this project, please visit the project webpage at http://cliniclegal.org/citizenship-and-integration-national-capacity-building-project or contact Laura Burdick, email@example.com.