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Nation’s Mayors promote Citizenship

Nation’s Mayors Call for National “New Americans Initiative” To Assist 8 Million Immigrants Become U.S. Citizens

City of North Miami and the Florida Immigrant Coalition lead efforts in South Florida

At its 80th Annual Meeting in Orlando, FL, the U.S. Conference of Mayors passed the New Americans Initiative Resolution to promote U.S. Citizenship at the federal, state, municipal and community level sponsored by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and co-sponsored by North Miami Mayor, Andre Pierre, among others.

The Resolution urges Mayors to create municipal initiatives that actively promote the value of U.S. citizenship and to assist immigrants with their naturalization applications. It also calls on the Federal Government to create a national “New Americans Initiative” to promote U.S. citizenship, and to reduce the barriers to naturalization, including cost (see fact sheet). Mayors also urged Congress to change its current requirement that all USCIS services, including U.S. citizenship, be funded fully from fees and to provide federal resources to support the costs of naturalization and promote U.S. citizenship.

There are currently over 8 million legal permanent residents (LPRs) in the United States who are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship. Florida is the fourth state in the country with the largest population of eligible green card holders, with a total of 710,000. However, only 619,000 (7.7%) applied for naturalization throughout the country in 2010 (see fact sheet).

For that reason, the Florida Immigrant Coalition launched earlier this year its program Florida New Americans, assisting immigrants in South Florida to naturalize. This effort is part of The National Partnership for New Americans which, through its “Become A Citizen Now” campaign, has assisted 5,880 immigrants and their children to become U.S. citizens across the country in the first five months of 2012.

This project helps us fulfill our goal of ensuring that immigrants in Florida are fully integrated in society, have opportunities to protect their rights and make their voices heard,” says Maria Rodriguez, Executive Director for the Florida Immigrant Coalition. FLIC collaborated with the City of North Miami and the Haitian Lawyers Association to organize a successful citizenship clinic in the month of May. “We are very proud of having the opportunity to work with the City of North Miami and we congratulate Mayor Pierre for taking leadership in this initiative that will advance the rights of Haitian and Latino immigrants in South Florida by helping them become active citizens.”

Other members of the National Partnership are creating opportunities for cities to support citizenship, such as OneAmerica of Washington State, which helped create the City of Seattle’s Office for Immigrant and Refugee Affairs last year. The new office will promote a citywide culture that understands and values the benefits that all members of our society receive when immigrants and refugee communities are successfully integrated into our civic, economic, and cultural life.

Earlier this month, Chicago Mayor Emanuel (himself the son and grandson of immigrants) announced the Chicago New Americans Initiative with USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas, while hosting the first ever citizenship swearing in ceremony in City Council Chambers. The Chicago New Americans Initiative brings together the State of Illinois and City of Chicago in partnership with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) to offer assistance to thousands of eligible, law abiding, permanent residents in becoming naturalized, U.S. citizens.

“New citizens mean new economic growth and a shared commitment to our Democracy,” said Eva Millona, Co-chair of the Partnership and Executive Director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA). “An investment in immigrant integration pays dividends not just for immigrants and their families, but for our nation as a whole.”

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