By Laura Burdick
In December 2013, CLINIC completed a two-year, $600,000 national capacity building project funded by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Office of Citizenship. The goal of this project was to build the long-term capacity of local affiliate agencies to provide high quality, comprehensive citizenship preparation services to Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs). Through this project, CLINIC provided technical assistance and funding to four local affiliate agencies to establish new programs in ESL/citizenship education and/or naturalization application assistance. The four local agencies were Catholic Charities of Indianapolis, IN; Catholic Charities of Los Angeles, CA; Catholic Services of Syracuse, NY; and Catholic Charities of Worcester, MA. Each local affiliate received a sub-grant of $112,500.
The funder required CLINIC to conduct a formal program evaluation analyzing the effectiveness of the capacity building and technical assistance activities and the gains achieved by the local affiliate agencies, and to write a final evaluation report at the project’s conclusion. The final evaluation noted that all four of CLINIC’s local affiliate agencies are now authorized to provide immigration legal services (two obtained BIA recognition and two were already recognized), and all are staffed by BIA accredited representatives. Through this project, CLINIC helped 12 staff at three agencies to obtain accreditation (three applications are still pending but are expected to be approved shortly). All four programs now have well-developed, sustainable citizenship education and legal programs as anticipated under this grant. These educational and legal services meet the benchmarks identified by CLINIC for quality and professionalism.
CLINIC’s local affiliate agencies provided citizenship education services to 952 students (86% of their collective goal of 1,110 students) and prepared and submitted 1,288 citizenship applications (125% of their collective goal of 1,030 applications). To date, 873 LPRs have successfully naturalized under this project, and the overall pass rate across all four sites on the citizenship test was 94%. Collectively, the project served LPRs from more than 50 countries, with the highest numbers from Mexico, Burma, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Liberia. Many of the clients served by this project were refugees or immigrants who have special challenges in the naturalization process such as low income or low levels of literacy and formal education.
CLINIC greatly appreciates the Office of Citizenship’s generous support for this project. We hope to have more opportunities in the future to do naturalization capacity building work and to apply the promising practices and lessons learned in this project.