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Celebrating U.S. Citizenship

Jul 3, 2014
Rommel Calderwood

As we celebrate our country’s birthday and independence on the Fourth of July, many of us will contemplate what it means to be Americans.  Being an American for the foreign-born goes beyond the ability to vote in elections or obtain a U.S. passport.  Many immigrants already feel American at heart long before they take their first step to becoming naturalized U.S. citizens – a pre-requisite to vote and obtain a passport.  Many of them have integrated into their communities long before – going to weekly church services, volunteering in their children’s schools, and paying their taxes. 

While many “green card” holders have called the United States home, often for decades, they nonetheless face numerous challenges that prevent them from fulfilling their dreams of becoming U.S. citizens.  Only 700,000 or just eight percent of the 8.5 million eligible lawful permanent residents (LPRs) naturalize each year.  Nearly 50 percent of LPRs who were surveyed cited the high cost of filing an Application for Naturalization, lack of English proficiency skills, and scarce information about the low-cost immigration and test preparation services available in their communities as some of the reasons for not naturalizing. 

CLINIC and its affiliate network understand the challenges that many aspiring citizens face, and as such, CLINIC has supported its network of nonprofit immigration legal services with over $7 million in flow-through funding to serve low-income LPRs across the country and help them navigate the complex naturalization process.  As one of the founding organizations of the New Americans Campaign (NAC), CLINIC works with its national network partners, foundations, local affiliates, and federal government agencies to promote the importance of U.S. citizenship and to break down the barriers that prevent many eligible LPRs from taking the crucial steps on their journey to becoming new Americans. 

CLINIC is proud to be a part of the NAC and other initiatives that have helped LPRs to realize their American dreams.  Through the NAC, CLINIC has provided nearly $2 million in flow-through funding to its affiliate partners in Charlotte, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and Miami.  Additionally, CLINIC supports over 100 partners, including legal-service providers, businesses, faith-based groups, community leaders, and universities across the country by providing free trainings, resources, and best practices on naturalization and citizenship.  Since the NAC’s founding in July 2011, it has helped over 100,000 LPRs across the country with their naturalization applications and has covered $85 million in legal and application fees for low-income immigrants and their families.

CLINIC applauds the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) for overwhelmingly passing Citizenship Now, a resolution that seeks to compel the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and U.S. Department of Homeland Security to make policy changes that will help increase the number of eligible LPRs who naturalize.   The USCM recognizes the “melting pot” of immigrants who have enriched our nation with their diverse cultures, languages, and ideas.  CLINIC welcomes new opportunities to continue helping the many LPRs start their journey to U.S. citizenship and ensuring that they attain the same opportunities that generations of immigrants before them enjoyed that allowed them to prosper in this great nation.  As we celebrate the Fourth of July in the days ahead, let us remember the motto of the United States, E pluribus unum – "From many, one."    

*Rommel is the Project Coordinator for the New Americans Campaign