By Laura Burdick
CLINIC has unparalleled success in creating charitable immigration legal programs. These programs help meet the current need for services in their communities, and will help meet the much greater, anticipated need in the future when comprehensive immigration reform passes.
One example of CLINIC’s work in this area is its national capacity building project funded by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Office of Citizenship. The goal of this two-year project concluded in December 2013, 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 English as a Second Language (ESL)/citizenship education and/or naturalization application assistance. The four local agencies were Catholic Charities of Indianapolis, Ind; Catholic Charities of Los Angeles, Calif.; Catholic Services of Syracuse, N.Y.; and Catholic Charities of Worcester, Mass.
CLINIC conducted a formal program evaluation, analyzing the effectiveness of the capacity building and technical assistance activities and the gains achieved by the local affiliate agencies. The evaluation noted that all four of CLINIC’s local affiliate agencies are now authorized to provide immigration legal services and all are staffed by Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) accredited representatives. Through this project, CLINIC helped 12 staff at three agencies 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 that meet the benchmarks identified by CLINIC for quality and professionalism.
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. To date, 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). Furthermore, 873lawful permanent residents (LPRs) 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.
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.
For more outcomes from the Citizenship and Integration National Capacity Building Project and resources for enhanced program management, visit: https://cliniclegal.org/about-us/programs/center-citizenship-and-immigrant-communities/citizenship-and-integration-national
*Laura Burdick is a Field Support Coordinator and manages CLINIC’s National Capacity Building Project