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Workforce: Path to Citizenship – Leading Where Others Are Sure to Follow

Siliconeer (E-Magazine)

April 08 2014

Economic growth has solidified the Bay Area as one of the most diverse populations in the country, greatly influenced by the influx of high-skilled foreign workers who come for employment in the tech industry. This entrepreneurial spirit also attracts people from around the world who start companies, drive innovation and create jobs that require workers with engineering and science degrees. Domestic talent alone cannot fill these jobs. Top companies will be teaming up with the Bethlehem Project to support workers in their pursuit of citizenship. The program is an effort in cities nationwide to help businesses assist their eligible immigrant employees with the naturalization process so they become full participants in the workplace, community and local economy. A Siliconeer report.

When it comes to addressing immigration, Silicon Valley is not waiting for Washington. Many companies in the area are taking the lead in helping to integrate foreign-born employees and customers into Bay Area communities — including offering resources to help them along the path to citizenship. The writing is on the wall: the demographics are changing in California and beyond, due in large part to foreign immigration. Silicon Valley is among the areas being affected most, with foreign immigration jumping to more than 19,000 in 2013, up 52 percent from the previous year (July 2012 to July 2013), according to the 2014 Silicon Valley Index.

This kind of growth has solidified the Bay Area as one of the most diverse populations in the country, greatly influenced by the influx of high-skilled foreign workers who come for employment in the tech industry. This entrepreneurial spirit also attracts people from around the world who start companies, drive innovation and create jobs that require workers with engineering and science degrees. Domestic talent alone cannot fill these jobs.

In its report, Planning for a Better Future, California 2025, the Public Policy Institute of California, says that the state’s education system is not keeping up with the economy’s demands. In 2025, it is projected that 41 percent of all jobs in California will require a bachelor’s degree, however, only 35 percent of working-age adults in the state will have one — equating to a shortfall of one million college graduates.

“For decades, the best and brightest from around the world have come to Silicon Valley to innovate — over 40 percent of startups in this area were founded by immigrants,” says Emily Lam vice president of Health Care and Federal Issues for the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. “But current U.S. immigration policies, along with growing opportunities in other countries, are keeping people out. Comprehensive immigration reform is urgently needed this year so U.S. companies can continue competing for talent in the global marketplace. At this moment, a quick search on shows there are almost 8,000 tech job openings for the San Jose Metro Area.”

Leading Companies Partner with Bethlehem Project

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Technology Credit Union has been working with The Bethlehem Project since July of 2013, not only offering their resources to its employees, they have also hosted two seminars for their members. The seminars are free and open to members and Tech CU employees.

Permanent resident employees at ABM, Nokia and DTZ will start receiving free citizenship assistance from their employers this month.

The announcement was made today at a press conference hosted by the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce.

These top companies will be teaming up with the Bethlehem Project to support workers in their pursuit of citizenship. The program is an effort in cities nationwide to help businesses assist their eligible immigrant employees with the naturalization process so they become full participants in the workplace, community and local economy.

“Immigration has shaped the landscape of Silicon Valley for the last century, and it will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. It is one of the biggest influences on our businesses and economy, and one of the most important issues we face as a community,” said Barbara B. Kamm, president and CEO of Technology Credit Union. “We at Technology Credit Union support programs such as the Bethlehem Project because they provide much-needed resources and information for green card holders seeking citizenship. It’s important to our membership and to our community, and therefore it’s important to us.”

“One of the greatest economic generators for San Jose and Silicon Valley has always been the diversity of our region, and the Bethlehem Project is a wonderful resource for our business community,” said Jim Reed, vice president of Public Policy at the Silicon Valley San Jose Chamber of Commerce. “This partnership will only aid in maximizing the contributions that the immigrant community has already made to our region for over 200 years, and we are happy to welcome the Bethlehem Project to Silicon Valley.”

Through the Bethlehem Project, lawful permanent resident employees of these businesses will attend a citizenship information session. In the weeks to come, they will also receive free one-on-one citizenship legal assistance, civics and English test preparation, and help submitting the N-400 citizenship application.

“I am now an American citizen. Becoming an American has always been important for me because I can vote. I feel like I have a voice,” said Rosario Becerra, an ABM employee who has benefited from the Bethlehem Project. “ABM has made it possible to take classes at the worksite. This made it possible for me to learn and become more confident.”

With the San Jose launch, the Bethlehem Project has partnered with more than 50 businesses in five cities nationwide.

“Silicon Valley companies are taking the lead in providing critical assistance to their immigrant employees,” said Ali Noorani, executive director at the National Immigration Forum, which runs the Bethlehem Project. “It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved. Businesses open the door for critical services to their employees, and employees have the chance to pursue their American Dream.”

The work of the Bethlehem Project is made possible in San Jose by the support of the New Americans Campaign, the Grove Foundation, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and the James Irvine Foundation.

For companies like San Jose-based Technology Credit Union, a $1.7 billion financial institution with diverse membership that includes approximately 33 percent East Asian and South Asian members, the influx of new-to-country workers and foreign-born residents is top-of-mind as the organization looks for new ways to strengthen relationships with employees and customers. Through partnerships with organizations such as the National Immigration Forum, which works with businesses to help eligible immigrant employees with the citizenship process, and BAMM (Bay Area Mobility Management), a network that supports employee relocations, Tech CU is providing its employees and members with resources to help traverse the complex (and often expensive) path to citizenship. The credit union hosts a number of free seminars throughout the year with information and onsite help focused on such topics as becoming a citizen and sponsoring a green card for immediate family members.

“The seminars aren’t directly related to our financial products and services, but we are community-focused and there is an obvious need for this information amongst our members and employees, as well as in the community,” said Hemali Gajaria, project manager for Tech CU’s Global Members program. “By hosting events, we’re helping people and strengthening the Tech CU brand as a business that understands the needs of our customers and the areas we serve.”

Helping foreign-born citizens is nothing new to Tech CU. For more than a decade, the credit union has been offering specialized financial services for new-to-country and foreign-born workers through its Global Members Program, which grew out of Tech CU’s association with high tech companies in the Bay Area. The program consists of a core set of products that help new-to-country workers set up their financial accounts and establish credit in the U.S., buy a car, send money internationally, and even secure travel medical insurance for visiting relatives. Once these individuals are established and begin thinking about their financial future, Tech CU can offer them mortgage, wealth management and even business banking services.

Nina Daruwalla joined Tech CU when she and her husband migrated to Silicon Valley in 2001. They opened their first checking account, went on to get a mortgage, and today, Daruwalla, who is a realtor with Coldwell Banker, has a business account with the credit union.

“When we came to the U.S., our company processed all the paperwork for securing our green cards. We’ve built a life here and will be applying for citizenship this summer,” said Daruwalla. “We’ve been lucky to have the support of my husband’s employer. For others, though, I know it’s more challenging.”

Immigration is a hot topic in Silicon Valley this year, with top companies and advocacy groups joining forces to push Washington towards meaningful reform. Groups such as, which is supported by the who’s who of the tech elite, is helping to lead the charge. The group recently launched a nationwide membership campaign ( ($35 annually) for those who want to become more involved and support the movement. Other organizations are running print and social media campaigns, “fly-in” coalition trips to Washington, and even a series of “hackathons” headlined by big industry names.

Despite these efforts, augmented by the actions of more than 400 groups across the country, (including faith leaders, local businesses and law enforcement groups), many in Washington believe forward movement on immigration reform in 2014 will be unlikely due to the upcoming fall elections. For those caught in the crosshairs of immigration policy “as is,” information and assistance are more important than ever.

“Providing citizenship information to employees or customers is a win-win proposition for companies. It has no effect on the bottom line and gives those who are working here a chance to reap the socioeconomic benefits of citizenship, such as higher wages, job mobility, and civic engagement,” says Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum. “But it’s also much more than that — it gives them a chance to achieve their ‘American Dream.’”

It’s no surprise that free seminars hosted by companies like Tech CU are so popular. With insight, guidance, and even access to financial help, they are a gold mine to those who want to know more about the naturalization process. For the companies hosting, the seminars help strengthen their relationships with customers by building trust, and subsequently, creating the kind of brand loyalty.

Citizenship for Immigrants: Tech companies Join Bethlehem Project


March 20 2014

By Danielle Restuccia

Legal immigrants in Silicon Valley may now have a better chance at citizenship: this week, several tech companies joined the Bethlehem Project, which provides free services for permanent resident card holders.

Nokia, DTZ, Technology Credit Union, and ABM are partnering with the nonprofit in order to help employees become full citizens. To foster that transition, the Bethlehem Project funds services such
as citizenship test preparation and help with legal forms for green card holders. All services are provided on-site at the workplace for free.

Streamlining the citizenship process

For immigrants with permanent resident status—green card holders—the path to citizenship should be relatively easy.

However, for many who are working long hours or don’t speak fluent English, finding the time and the wherewithal to wade through complex legal documents, study for and schedule a citizenship test, and get legal assistance can be prohibitive. Because of those factors, immigrants who technically qualify for citizenship often don’t take the step of actually obtaining that status.
That’s where the Bethlehem Project comes in. A year-old nonprofit, the organization partners with businesses in order to help permanent resident employees with all of the “nitty-gritty stuff” required along the path to citizenship. The Project connects a partnering business with a local service provider, such as a legal office or test preparation organization, and those organizations then offer classes on the company’s worksite. The Bethlehem Project picks up the tab.

Specifically, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, the Project will offer legal immigrants the chance to attend a citizenship information session, get free personal legal assistance, take a civics and English test preparation course, and submit the N-400 citizen application.

Why Silicon Valley?

Right now there are approximately 385,000 legal immigrants in Silicon Valley.

The importance of immigrants to the workforce is growing rapidly. Barbara B. Kamm, the CEO of Technology CU—one of the four companies that joined the Bethlehem Project this week—spoke to that issue in a company press release: “Immigration has shaped the landscape of Silicon Valley for the last century, and it will continue to do so for the foreseeable future…it is one of the biggest influences on our businesses and economy, and one of the most important issues we face as a community.”

Underscoring that feeling is research showing the benefit of citizenship. A study from the Migration Policy Institute in Washington indicates that when green card holders naturalize, they see an average wage increase of 5 percent. Additionally, citizens are able to earn 50 to 70 percent more than non-citizens.

Silicon Valley tech companies should see benefits, too, in terms of employee loyalty and productivity. Companies already partnering with the Bethlehem Project in Los Angeles, San Diego, Miami and Washington D.C. have expressed satisfaction, and 1,500 employees have already earned their citizenship.

Bethlehem Project organizers expect more Silicon Valley companies to sign up in coming weeks as awareness increases. Historically, the area has been at the forefront of the push for immigration reform.

CU joins naturalization initiative to help Silicon Valley workers

Credit Union National Association

March 19 2014

SAN JOSE, Calif. (3/19/14)—Technology CU, San Jose, Calif., joined three other Silicon Valley companies in partnering with the Bethlehem Project Monday to assist employees holding legal-immigrant status achieve citizenship.

The Bethlehem project, in its first year of work as a pilot program that funds services for immigrants pursuing naturalization, will connect the $1.7 billion-asset credit union—and the other participating businesses—with local providers of legal assistance and citizenship test preparation, which they then will offer on-site to their employees at no cost. 

Nokia, ABM and DTZ in Silicon Valley round out the rest of the companies in the program.

“Immigration has shaped the landscape of Silicon Valley for the last century, and it will continue to do so for the foreseeable future,” said Barbara B. Kamm, Technology CU president/CEO. “It is one of the biggest influences on our businesses and economy, and one of the most important issues we face as a community.”

Qualifying employees will receive a citizenship information session; free one-on-one citizen legal assistance; civics and English test preparation; and help submitting the N-400 citizen application.

About 385,000 legal immigrants who are eligible for citizenship live in Silicon Valley, according to a March 18 report by NPR.

Studies have shown “a clear economic advantage to becoming a citizen,” the report said. “Immigrants who naturalize see at least a 5% hike in their wages and they can earn between 50% to 75% more than non-citizens.”

So far, the Bethlehem Project has partnered with more than 50 businesses nationwide. This new San Jose-based program is funded by the New Americans Campaign, the Grove Foundation, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and the James Irvine Foundation.

移民變公民 伯利恆計畫助圓夢

World Journal (San Francisco)

March 18 2014

By 王金城

聖荷西矽谷商會、科技信用合作社(Tech Credit Union)、矽谷ABM公司,以及全國移民論壇(National Immigration Forum)17日聯合宣布發起聖荷西地區伯利恆計畫(Bethlehem Project)。專程從華府來灣區的全國移民論壇代表穆蕾(Jennie Murray)表示,伯利恆計畫是該移民論壇組織的重要活動,協助各公司機構合法移民申請公民身分。


參 加成立記者會的還有「全國移民論壇」執行長努拉尼(Ali Noorani)、科技信用合作社總裁卡姆(Barbara Kamm)、聖荷西矽谷商會公共政策副總裁里德(Jim Reed)、DTZ營運長布朗(Grover Brown),另外還有剛經由伯利恆計畫協助,申請成為美國公民的ABM公司員工貝色拉(Rasario Becerra)等。

與會者指出,調查顯示,移民申請成為公民之後,將更有歸屬感與認同感,參與各項社區活動,積極參與工作。貝色拉表示, 歸化為公民之後,他馬上登記成為合格選民,深深感覺到成為美國公民的權利與責任感。




「伯利恆計劃」聖荷西啟動 矽谷企業鼓勵移民員工入籍

Singtao USA

March 18 2014

By 任薇薇

由全國移民論壇(National Immigration Forum)發起的「伯利恆計劃」(Bethlehem Project)計劃來到灣區,昨日在聖荷西正式啟動。該計劃透過非牟利機構與企業的合作,在職場為員工提供入籍幫助,鼓勵更多合法移民入籍,實現僱主和 員工雙贏。



全國移民論壇執行主任Ali Noorani介紹說,伯利恆計劃可以讓僱主更深入地參與入籍程序。企業邀請非牟利機構來到工作場所進行外展工作,介紹入籍程序,及幫助員工填寫表格申 請,提供幫助的成本則由非牟利承擔。員工可以省下律師費和往返律師樓的麻煩,公司則與移民員工有更深的聯繫。

聖荷西矽谷商會公共政策副主席里德(Jim Reed)說,矽谷經濟走過前幾年的低谷現在正在強勁增長,各行各業都面人手短缺。這個計劃可以增加員工對公司的忠誠度,因為僱員知道公司幫助他們入籍,會銘記在心。

Business Back Push Full Citizenship for Silicon Valley Green Card Holders

CBS San Francisco

March 18 2014

By Mike Colgan

SAN JOSE (KCBS) — The path to citizenship for permanent resident card holders in Silicon Valley may become easier as a number of Silicon Valley companies announced on Monday that they are getting directly involved in helping eligible employees become citizens—for free.

Nokia, DTZ, Technology Credit Union and ABM were at the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce to announcing their joining “the Bethlehem Project”—a year-old, nonprofit program that provides funds and assistance for employees who have the documents – often called a green card – including on-site citizenship classes.

“The Bethlehem Project works with businesses to assist their eligible immigrant employees with the citizenship process so they become full participants in the workplace, community, and economy,” says the company website.

“The technology community has a lot of need for highly skilled individuals—many of whom are immigrants,” said Barbara Kamm, CEO of Technology Credit Union. “We have about 33 percent of our members coming from Asia and Southeast Asia. We also have about 15 percent coming from the Hispanic community, and issue of citizenship is very important to them.”
It’s estimated that, in the San Jose area, there are about half a million immigrants that are eligible for citizenship.

The program is running in five cities: San Jose, Los Angeles, San Diego, Miami and Washington, D.C.

The Silicon Valley program will be funded by the New Americans Campaign, the Grove Foundation, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, and the James Irvine Foundation.

Free help for Silicon Valley green card holders


March 17 2014

By Joe Garofoli

Immigration reform may be stalled in Washington, but on Monday a handful of Silicon Valley companies announce they will be part of a program to help their green-card-holding employees with their citizenship issues.

Dubbed “The Bethlehem Project,” the year-old program aims to help folks with all of the nitty-gritty stuff it takes to become a citizen. What’s new is that the project will provide the funding to have those services located on-site at the green card holder’s company. The project will connect a local service provider, say for legal assistance, with a company that agrees to be part of the program. The project will fund the cost of those services.

“It’s expensive and takes time to get a lawyer, and to find out about citizenship classes,” said Mario Moreno, a spokesman for the National Immigration Forum, which is coordinating the effort.

The pilot project is already up and running in four cities — Los Angeles, San Diego, Miami and Washington, D.C. — and has helped about 1,500 people get their citizenship. However, only a handful of companies with offices in the Valley, including Nokia and DTZ, have signed up so far.

Part of the early reluctance may be that some larger Valley employers aren’t used to working with nonprofits, said the National Immigration Forum’s Jennie Murray.

“They may be used to nonprofits coming to them and asking for something,” said Murray, the National Immigration Forum’s director of integration programs in Washington, D.C. She points out this program provides the services free of charge to green-card holders and has no cost to the companies.

In San Jose, the program will be funded by the New Americans Campaign, the Grove Foundation, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, and the James Irvine Foundation.

Silicon Valley firms join in immigrant citizenship effort

San Francisco Chronicle

March 17 2014

By Joe Garofoli

With immigration reform languishing in Washington, a handful of Silicon Valley companies took action Monday to help their green-card-holding workers become citizens.

Nokia, DTZ, Technology Credit Union and ABM joined the Bethlehem Project - a year-old pilot program that funds services targeted toward immigrants at the workplace. The initiative connects companies with local providers of legal assistance and citizenship test preparation, among other services.

“It’s expensive and takes time to get a lawyer, and to find out about citizenship classes,” said Mario Moreno, a spokesman for National Immigration Forum, which is coordinating the effort.

The program is running in five cities - San Jose, Los Angeles, San Diego, Miami and Washington, D.C. - where the Bethlehem Project has partnered with 50 businesses to help about 1,500 people get their citizenship.

Organizers expect a dozen more companies to sign up soon in Silicon Valley, where the National Immigration Forum estimates that there are 385,000 green-card holders eligible for naturalization.

Part of the reason only four companies were part of the Silicon Valley launch is that some larger local employers aren’t accustomed to working with nonprofits, said the National Immigration Forum’s Jennie Murray.

“They may be used to nonprofits coming to them and asking for something,” said Murray, the National Immigration Forum’s director of integration programs in Washington, D.C. She points out the program provides its services free of charge to green-card holders and has no cost to the companies.

Politically, valley leaders have been aggressive in pushing for immigration reform in Washington. The Silicon Valley Leadership Group, which represents 375 member companies in the valley, has led several delegations of tech CEOs to lobby Congress for reform.

Since August, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been at the forefront of the political effort on immigration through his new issue advocacy group

But while the Republican-controlled House has jammed efforts to pass immigration reform that provides a pathway to citizenship for undocumented U.S. residents, the Bethlehem Project hopes to provide some help for green-card holders stuck in immigration limbo.

The project offers lawful permanent residents employed by participating businesses entry to a citizenship information session, free one-on-one legal assistance, test preparation help and assistance submitting citizenship applications.

In San Jose, the program will be funded by the New Americans Campaign, the Grove Foundation, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and the James Irvine Foundation.

Drive offers immigrants free help in US naturalization

Inquirer Global Nation

January 25 2014

By Harvey I. Barkin

SAN JOSE, California – A campaign to help legal immigrants become US citizens held its first ethnic media roundtable on Friday, Jan. 24 to encourage legal permanent residents to naturalize.
The New Americans Campaign (NAC) initiated in 2012 by a network of businesses, nonprofit organizations and grant-makers exhorted the assembled group of ethnic media representatives and community leaders to educate their audiences on the value and benefits of becoming a US citizen.

To become US citizens, applicants must have been legal residents for five years. Their children become naturalized as a consequence of their own naturalization.
NAC partner New America Media (NAM) a NAC partner, hosted the briefing by speakers from immigration rights advocates and support groups

Good timing

The event couldn’t have come at a better time for the Filipino-American community. The request Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for the stranded relatives of Haiyan super-typhoon victims last year has caused a furor and is still unresolved.

For other immigrant groups, the urgency of proper documentation has come to the fore now that the Affordable Care Act (ACA or popularly, Obamacare) is law.
Moreover, while immigration reform is still to come, there’s time before Form N-400 for US citizenship application doubles from 10 to 20 pages.

“It’s becoming extremely difficult to become naturalized in the US,” says Vanessa Sandoval, program director of Immigrant Rights & Education Network (Siren).

“US citizenship is extremely important. It gives you the right to vote. It allows free travel. If you are a permanent legal resident and you go abroad for six months you could abandon your residency. You can lose your status. If you commit certain crimes you can be deported. Even though we call it permanent residency, it is definitely not permanent in that sense. And it can be revoked,” Sandoval explains.

Benefits of naturalization

“Citizenship is what gives immigrants grounding in this country. Citizenship is what empowers people to become full-pledged members of the community to contribute and participate, not only in voting,” she adds.

Sandoval also observes that naturalized US citizens are much more motivated and less fearful of participating in public affairs: “They become involved in their local government and they advocate for their rights more effectively and efficiently than those who don’t feel they have a foothold in their community and in society.”

One problem in applying is the $680 fee. For immigrants on fixed incomes, this could be a month’s pay. Also, some private lawyers and unscrupulous notaries charge thousands of dollars for their services.

Siren offers free and ethical multilingual services and is promoting the use of the waiver to the application fee that many people don’t even know exists. Immigrants with low incomes and few benefits can avail of this program if they submit proof of income.

The campaign had six events last year and helped naturalize 1,552 legal immigrants while helping them save a combined $535,160. Through its network, the campaign provided free study materials for the citizenship exams.

Barrier to citizenship

One big barrier to US citizenship is English competency. The exam featuring interview and interrogation by USCIS officers can be extremely intimidating.

“What we’re doing is de-mystifying those interviews,” explains Sandoval. “We let people know what they entail. We’re giving them the 100 questions, the CDs for them to study. We’re providing them with free information on where they can get free citizenship services so they feel empowered and prepared for the interview.”

According Mann Lee, supervisor of Self-Help for the Elderly’s naturalization program, a Chinese client was so intimidated when deportation was mentioned and birth date was asked. “The yes and no section (in the US citizenship application exam) was also difficult for them to understand.”

However, Beatrice Ann Pangilinan, an Asian Law Alliance attorney said, the process is now being streamlined. Two years ago, it took from four to six months for naturalization. Now it only takes two to three months for the exams to happen, she notes. She was amazed at how one client still had a green card from the 1960s.

“Deportation only happens when you commit serious crimes or when you misrepresent,” Pangilinan explains. “The questions are only at the fifth-grade English level (for most Filipinos). You don’t need to be super-fluent in English. I think it’s more the fear of the unknown that still intimidate some applicants. If you fail the exams, you have two more chances to re-apply, though you have to pay the stiff fee again.”

Low naturalization rates

Sandoval said, “We’re offering great services but it’s really difficult for us to let people know about it. We can have a million free events. But if people don’t know about it, they’re not going to come and be able to know and take advantage (of the benefits of citizenship).”

In Santa Clara County alone, about 190,000 immigrants are eligible for naturalization. In Silicon Valley alone, about 250,000 immigrants are eligible. But only an average of 14,597 immigrants naturalized each year. “That’s only eight percent and this is a trend we’re seeing nationwide. Only about 11,000 people in Silicon Valley naturalized in 2013.”

Of the immigrants served by the NAC last year, 52 percent were from Mexico, 15 percent from Vietnam and only five percent were from the Philippines. Three percent were from Africa and two percent from Europe.

Other speakers at Friday’s event included Suzanne Sliter, project coordinator for Bay Area Bethlehem, who spoke of their free services for citizenship help at work sites, and Hemali Gajaria, marketing research and programs VP at Technology Credit Union.

Silicon Valley De-bug’s Adrian Avila and Zenia (no last name) testified for the benefits of US citizenship after their harrowing experiences as undocumented aliens.

Local companies help their employees become U.S. citizens

Miami Herald

September 17 2013

By Gustavo Solis |

For some employees of Baptist Health South Florida, the path to U.S. Citizenship started Tuesday.

The non-profit health organization partnered up with the National Immigration Forum to provide free on-site assistance to employees eligible to become American citizens. They held a special information session on Tuesday, which was National Citizenship Day.

“This is what this country is all about,” said Jose Soriano, 50, who was there to support his wife Dinorah. “It doesn’t matter what color you are or what religion you practice. This is a great opportunity.”

To be eligible for citizenship, applicants must be 18 years or older and be a permanent resident for at least five years; three years if they’re married to an American.

Everyone must pay a $680 application fee but the cost of citizenship is often higher because most people pay thousands of dollars to lawyers to help them with the application, said Abby Chase a spokesperson for the program.

Officially known as The Bethlehem Project, the program is designed for people like Soriano, 52, who cannot afford legal fees and would otherwise not apply for citizenship.

Eligible Baptist Health employees only have to pay the $680 fee. They can work out a payment plan to have the money deducted from their pay check over time.

Baptist Health is one of the largest local companies participating in the program. Other participants include Miami Dade College, The Betsy hotel in South Beach, the InterContinental, and American Apparel. Three other cities are participating in The Bethlehem Project this year - Washington D.C., Los Angeles, and San Jose - but with half a million eligible immigrants living in South Florida, Miami is among the most active, Chase said.

For Soriano, this is an opportunity to fulfill a life-long dream.

She came to the United States from Cuba when she was 7 in the late 1960’s during the Freedom Flights. She was given a social security number, began working when she was a teenager and later got a driver’s license.

“I love this country,” she said. “I never cared to leave. To never be able to vote, it always hurt me.”

But after 9/11 her status was in limbo; although she had not come to the United States illegally, she did not have proper documents. Soriano, who’s children and grandchildren are American citizens, has never been able to vote.

When she saw the email regarding Tuesday’s info session, she called her husband in tears.

“She’s been wanting to do this for a long time,” her husband said.

Baptist Health joins groups nationwide seeking new Americans on National Citizenship Day

Associated Press

September 17 2013

MIAMI — Baptist Health South Florida is hosting on-site workshops for potential new citizens this week to mark National Citizenship day Tuesday.

The company is one of about a dozen businesses in California, Florida and Washington D.C. that are part of a pilot program to help their employees make the leap to citizenship. The National Immigration Forum is behind the program dubbed the Bethlehem Project.

The companies work with service providers to walk employees through the paperwork and to offer tutorials so they can pass the citizenship language and civics exams. They also provide some help with the $680 application.

Baptist offers low interest credit union loans for citizenship fees. Other companies have offered to let workers to put their vacation days toward the cost of citizenship.

Latinos celebran el Día de la Constitución de Estados Unidos en Maryland y Washington DC

Telemundo DC

September 17 2013

Por Paola Alonzo

Este martes decenas de personas celebraron el Día de la Constitución de los Estados Unidos convirtiéndose en ciudadanos y aprendiendo sobre la historia del país.

Como ya es una tradición en los Estados Unidos, cada 17 de septiembre se celebra a nivel nacional el día de la constitución y la ciudadanía. Hoy 26 personas en el condado Montgomery festejaron este día a lo grande convirtiéndose en ciudadanos estadounidenses.

Mientras esta mañana en Montgomery más de 20 personas se juramentaban como ciudadanos americanos,  más de una decena de inmigrantes legales en la capital del país, asistían a una sesión informativa sobre el proceso para adquirir la naturalización americana y sus beneficios.

“Es asistencia legal, es asistencia en las clases de ingles, es todo los requisitos que uno tiene que cumplir para hacerse ciudadano si ya es elegible para la ciudadanía,” dice Mario Moreno,  Portavoz, National Inmigration Forum.

Dijo el portavoz de foro nacional de inmigración, durante una sesión informativa que se llevo a cabo en un hotel de la capital, como parte del proyecto Bethlehem, que fomenta las coaliciones entre empresas y empleados para impulsar la ciudadanía.

“Eso crea lealtad dentro de la fuerza laboral, también les estas dando clases de ingles, cosas que mejoran el rendimiento del empleado pero también para el empleado es la oportunidad de hacerte ciudadano,” agrego Moreno.

Durante el 16 y el 23 de este mes, se espera que más de 18 mil personas a través del país se juramenten como ciudadanas. Marizza Contreras, quien llego de Perú a Estados Unidos hace más de una década anhela muy pronto realizar su sueño americano.

“Cuando uno llega a esta tierra es el sueño americano, entonces ahora estoy viviendo el sueño americano, Pronto ya voy a poder decir que soy una ciudadana americana,” finalizo Marizza Contreras, En proceso de ciudadanía.

On National Citizenship Day, immigration debate spurring some Latinos to pursue citizenship

NBC Latino

September 17 2013

There are 8.8 million legal permanent residents eligible for citizenship, according to government figures. In the case of Latinos, a Pew Hispanic report found that only 46 percent of Latino immigrants who are eligible to become citizens have taken the step, compared to 71 percent of non-Latino legal immigrants. Among Mexican-Americans, only 36 percent have naturalized.

On Tuesday – National Citizenship Day – groups and immigration advocates around the country urged Latinos who are eligible to become citizens, and pledged to help make it happen. One of them was Marizza Contreras, who became a citizen after receiving help from the Bethlehem Project, a program that partners businesses and local service providers to provide citizenship-eligible employees with low-cost or free citizenship assistance.

“I came to the United States in 2000. During all this time, I didn’t [apply for] citizenship due to procrastination. I kept putting it off because it was too much money and I couldn’t find the time,” said Contreras at a press conference in Washington, D.C. sponsored by the New Americans Campaign. “I was in the process of hiring a lawyer when the Betsy Hotel (in Miami, Florida) presented this wonderful opportunity to work with the Bethlehem Project. Thank you to
the Betsy Hotel for making this opportunity available to me,” she said.

Yet despite the efforts associated with pursuing citizenship, the immigration debate might be steering some Latinos to reconsider just remaining as legal residents.

In the gargantuan House district represented by Democratic Rep. Pete Gallego of Texas there are large numbers of people who are legal residents of the U.S., but have not applied for citizenship.

Their reasons vary but the immigration debate is spurring many to step out of their in-between status and apply for citizenship, Gallego said Tuesday.

Gallego planned immigration fairs for Tuesday in San Antonio; Fabens, a city outside El Paso and Del Rio, on the border.

Gallego said he’s held such fairs before in San Antonio and has had lines out the door.

“We have found there are large numbers of people who are here legally and are eligible for citizenship and have not applied,” he said. “Anyone who attends can get either help or information on applying on immigration forms, on visas, on college for DREAMers, on (English as a Second Language) classes.

Gallego said many immigrants, including those who are Latino, are concerned about possible changes in immigration law or are realizing they have a louder voice in shaping government policies when they vote, a privilege of citizenship.

There also will be discussions about the immigration reform debate and the status of legislation. Gallego said there still a possibility for reform, but the odds against it are increasing as each day passes and the congressional session nears its end.

“We’re closing in on the fourth quarter of the year. The fourth quarter of a football game always is toughest. If you are behind and not closing in, it’s difficult to make it over the goal line,” Gallego said . “There will be significant resentment towards the Republican leadership if the bill doesn’t pass, especially in the Latino community.”

Apart from being able to vote and have more of a say in the country’s legislative matters, there are economic benefits to citizenship, according to recent studies.

Justin Scoggins, co-author of the USC study, Citizen Gain: The Economic Benefits of Naturalization for Immigrants and the Economy, said at the press conference, “Our recent estimates suggest that citizenship alone is associated with an 8 to 11 percent increase in earnings annually, with much of this gain seen within the first few years of naturalizing.”

Max Sevilla, Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs for NALEO, stated it was important for groups to assist legal residents to pursue citizenship, saying “these individuals are already making a difference in communities and cities across the country, and this step will enable them to access the rights that will allow them to become full participants in our American democracy.”

American Businesses Support a Path to Citizenship, a Shot at the American Dream

The White House Blog

August 19 2013

By Felicia Escobar

Commonsense comprehensive immigration reform isn’t just something that makes sense to 68 members of the United States Senate or a majority of the American people – it also makes sense to American business. In fact, there is a rich history of employers helping their employees achieve the American dream of citizenship. And our legal immigration system provides avenues for employers to apply for green cards for their employees, which is a critical step toward the path to citizenship for immigrants.

One of the first companies to do this was Bethlehem Steel, which supported their immigrant workforce more fully integrating into the United States by offering free English classes back in 1915. Today, there are many more companies who are honoring that legacy by assisting their employees with the citizenship process. That’s because businesses recognize that citizenship is an asset not only for their workers and their families, but for the economy as a whole.

This week, the White House released a report highlighting the economic benefits of providing a path to earned citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living and working in the U.S. shadow economy.

The report compiled outside estimates showing that providing earned citizenship for these workers would increase their wages and, over 10 years, boost U.S. GDP by $1.4 trillion, increase total income for all Americans by $791 billion, and generate $184 billion in additional state and federal tax revenue from currently undocumented immigrants. It would also add about 2 million jobs to the U.S. economy.

Sharing in the tradition started by Bethlehem Steel in 1915, businesses step up in a variety of ways to help their employees reach the American dream. Many are being helped by an innovative initiative whose name is actually inspired by the forward thinking of Bethlehem. Through the Bethlehem Project, companies are partnering with community-based organizations to provide services to their workforce.

Another example includes Marriott International’ Global Language Learning Initiative, which makes language learning available for its U.S. workforce to help immigrant workers learn English and U.S.-born staffers become proficient in foreign languages. And some companies are offering interest-free loans to assist employees who would otherwise have a difficult time paying the naturalization application fee.

Investing in the future of an employee is a win for the company and for the employee. And as the research from the new White House reports suggests, citizenship also helps workers thrive. For companies, helping an employee apply for citizenship builds loyalty in the company.

During my time in the Obama Administration, I have had the privilege of attending several naturalization ceremonies held at the White House. Those ceremonies – which are similar to ones that occur every day across the country – are reminders of the basic principle of our country: that anyone, no matter where they came from, can become an American citizen if they are willing to work for it and take on the responsibilities of citizenship.

Commonsense immigration reform would honor this principle. And as the new White House report and those involved in the efforts highlighted above can attest to, it would also be good for business and the economy.

Companies Help Immigrants Obtain US Citizenship

The Associated Press

August 03 2013

By The Associated Press

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — For immigrants working toward the American Dream, some employers are now helping them reach their dream of becoming Americans.

Health clinics, hotels and a clothing factory are pairing up with immigrant advocates to offer on-site citizenship assistance as one of the perks of the job in greater Los Angeles, Miami, Washington and Silicon Valley as they aim to make naturalization more convenient for the 8.5 million legal immigrants eligible to become U.S. citizens.

The effort is billed as a win-win for both employee and employers: Workers avoid legal fees and having to shuttle to and from law offices to complete applications; companies create a deeper bond with immigrant workers and there’s little cost as nonprofits pick up the tab.

“You create some sense of loyalty,” said Leonie Timothee, human resources manager at InterContinental Miami, a luxury hotel that has helped six employees apply to naturalize since last year. “It is going to be a part of you for the rest of your life, and to know your place of employment helped you, assisted you in becoming a citizen — I think that’s a great deal.”

In most cases, immigrants can apply to become an American citizen after having a green card for five years and passing English and civics tests. But they often take longer to do so because they can’t afford the application fees, fear their English isn’t good enough or simply don’t know enough about the process, studies have shown.

While high-tech companies frequently sponsor foreign workers for visas or green cards, most companies haven’t gotten involved in the naturalization process. Their involvement usually ends at getting work papers unless the employee needs to travel extensively overseas or obtain national security clearance only available to a citizen, said Angelo Paparelli, an immigration attorney who specializes in employment-based issues.

Since last year, 19 companies have signed up to participate in the effort by the Washington-based National Immigration Forum to help more people become citizens. The focus of the so-called Bethlehem Project is on low-wage workers, who often face additional hurdles to naturalization such as long hours and extensive commutes and who may lack the cash to hire an immigration lawyer to help them complete the paperwork.

Uruguayan native Yolanda Oruc said she could have become an American citizen three years ago but didn’t have the money for attorney’s fees. When the 52-year-old who restocks hotel room mini bars learned her employer had brought in immigration experts to help her fill out the papers for free, she jumped at the chance and naturalized in July.

“I didn’t have a way to become a citizen because I didn’t have the money,” said Oruc, who works at The Betsy Hotel in Miami’s South Beach.

For starters, companies host a free information session run by a nonprofit to let employees know about the process of becoming a citizen. The agencies then hold one-on-one meetings to help fill out the necessary paperwork.

Some employers go further and front the government’s $680 naturalization application fee and deduct the funds from pay checks, said Jennie Murray, manager of the Bethlehem Project.

The effort is funded in part by the New Americans Campaign, which is a broader push to encourage citizenship through workshops, training sessions and the development of a mobile app to help immigrants determine if they’re eligible to become Americans.

Overall, about $500,000 has been donated to jumpstart the project named for Bethlehem Steel, which in 1915 offered its immigrant workers free English-language instruction.

Some businesses are also offering their own citizenship-related perks. Trump International Beach Resort in Sunny Isles, Fla., is paying for English classes to help its employees pass the citizenship test, said Linda Geyer, the hotel’s general manager. The hotel is also offering interest-free loans and letting workers cash out vacation time to cover the cost of citizenship application fees.

Evan Bacalao, senior director of civic engagement at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, said he’d like to expand the program to help naturalize workers in big factories and warehouses in Southern California’s Inland Empire. The region consists of suburbs spread over miles where immigrants often can’t make the half-hour or hour-long trip to an advocate’s office for help.

While unions historically played a role in helping workers naturalize, businesses didn’t often get involved. But companies may be looking for ways to hang onto low-wage workers as immigration to the U.S. has waned and the economy starts improving, said Louis DeSipio, a professor of political science and Chicano/Latino studies at University of California, Irvine.

He said larger companies with a sizable immigrant workforce are more likely to join such an effort.

“In tough economic times, keeping your workers isn’t so valuable,” he said. “Now as we’re moving back into a tighter job market it makes sense for employers to find ways to hold on particularly to low-wage employees.”

Beyond breeding loyalty and gratitude, companies such as the Southern California-based health care provider AltaMed see providing such assistance as part of their mission.

For years, AltaMed has focused on treating Latinos and underserved communities in cities such as Santa Ana, where about half of residents are immigrants. As a community service, the network also holds regular voter registration drives in the hopes of churning out more voters who support health care programs for the poor.

So adding citizenship assistance seemed like a natural fit, said Bob Turner, AltaMed’s vice president of human resources.

“The voters need to influence the politicians,” Turner said. “We believe that an informed electorate, and a voting electorate — it’s the way to be able to influence social change.”

Turning Permanent Residents Into Citizens

Wall Street Journal

July 08 2013

By Miriam Jordan

As Congress debates whether to put 11 million illegal immigrants on the path to citizenship, a network of private foundations, nonprofits and businesses has launched a campaign to turn legal U.S. residents who haven’t pursued citizenship into naturalized Americans.

More than eight million permanent residents, or green-card holders, are eligible to become citizens, according to the federal government.

On Wednesday, former President George W. Bush is to preside over a naturalization ceremony for 20 immigrants at his presidential center in Dallas, which will be followed by an event, sponsored by two of the foundations backing the citizenship initiative, focusing on the economic benefits of immigration, including citizenship.

“If even just half of those eligible for citizenship would naturalize, it could add billions of dollars to the economy in the next decade,” said Matthew Denhart, an immigration fellow at the Bush center, referring to wage and skill gains associated with becoming a citizen that would swell buying power.

Backed by $20 million in donations from foundations through 2015, the New Americans Campaign seeks to use new technology, outreach efforts and large-scale workshops to “turbocharge” citizenship, says Geri Mannion, director of U.S. programs at Carnegie Corporation. Other funders include the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund of San Francisco, the Grove Foundation of Los Altos, Calif., the Open Society Foundations and the JPB Foundation.

Individuals who demonstrate continuous permanent residence in the U.S. for at least five years, in most cases, are eligible for naturalization. But many applicants are discouraged by a labyrinthine process involving steep fees and red tape that can take years to complete.

Among the campaign’s technological components to jump-start citizenship are a set of tools, called CitizenshipWorks. An interactive website helps providers of legal assistance and other services efficiently prescreen immigrants for citizenship eligibility and then guide them through the application. A free mobile app, available in English and Spanish, walks individuals through the process and helps with preparation for a required civics exam.

In the field, about 100 organizations are teaming up to leverage resources, says Eric Cohen, the campaign’s coordinator. The target areas are Los Angeles, San Jose, Calif., Dallas, Houston, Charlotte, N.C., Miami and New York City, home to four out of 10 eligible immigrants.

Last week, the L.A. Chamber of Commerce announced participation in a project, sponsored by the NAC, to assist local employers willing to offer on-site citizenship workshops. Garment maker American Apparel Inc. is among companies to sign on.

“Citizenship raises employee productivity and retention,” said David Rattray, a senior vice president of the chamber.

In Miami, the New Americans Campaign has partnered with Miami-Dade County Public Schools to reach potential U.S. citizens in adult education programs. In L.A., “citizenship corners” at public libraries provide handouts and referral information. In many cities, immigrant-advocacy groups are planning citizenship workshops in Spanish and several Asian languages.

Several recent studies have found that naturalized immigrants boast higher income and lower poverty rates than noncitizens. They also are more likely to become homeowners and to further their education, according to the research. But not everyone who is eligible wishes to become a citizen, whether out of attachment to a native country, an aversion to bureaucratic hassle or the cost.

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, only a third of all Mexican immigrants and about two-thirds of non-Mexican immigrants eligible to become citizens have naturalized. About 40% of the 2.7 million undocumented residents who got a green card in the last immigration legalization program, in 1986, had become citizens by 2009, according to official estimates.

The NAC targets those here legally, but campaign funders say the approach could be replicated if Congress passes an immigration overhaul. “We’d activate the same partners to implement comprehensive immigration reform,” said Cathy Cha, senior program officer at the Haas, Jr. fund, started by the late Levi Strauss & Co. chief executive and his wife, Evelyn.

A bipartisan Senate bill supports citizenship; many House Republicans have taken a skeptical position. One scenario that could emerge from the House would offer undocumented immigrants permanent legal residency, but without the possibility of eventually becoming citizens.

Some opponents of a path to citizenship say that Democrats generally favor such initiatives because converting millions of Hispanics and Asians into new voters would benefit their party. Both demographic groups lean Democratic and helped re-elect President Barack Obama.

To become naturalized, applicants must demonstrate proficiency in English and knowledge of U.S. history and government, in addition to paying a $680 application fee. Ms. Mannion said the foundations are in talks with some lending institutions to offer revolving loans to cover the application fee, and some businesses are considering offering loans.

Intel Corp. co-founder Andy Grove, who was born in Hungary and became a U.S. citizen in 1962, says his own story inspired him to fund the campaign. Recalling the moment he collected his U.S. passport, he said: “I belonged. This is what citizenship is all about.”

Fábrica de nuevos ciudadanos

La Opinion

June 03 2013

Por: Pilar Marrero

American Apparel es una empresa de ropa conocida por su campaña “Legalize LA”, estampada en camisetas y en grandes letreros y vallas, su campaña publicitaria con jovencitas sexy y el éxito de su moda con la juventud estadounidense de clase media. Ahora también es la primera empresa de Los Ángeles en hacer campaña activa para que sus empleados se hagan ciudadanos.

En sus cuarteles generales de la calle Alameda y Séptima en Los Ángeles, en los pisos de producción el ruido de las máquinas es ensordecedor. Cientos de obreros manejan las máquinas, otros llevan cajas de aquí para allá, otros doblan y meten en cajas, otros cargan torres de cajas, otros supervisan. Todos, o casi todos tienen algo en común: una inmensa mayoría son latinos y muchos de ellos inmigrantes.

American Apparel recientemente se convirtió en la primera empresa de Los Ángeles en ofrecer información y talleres de ciudadanía a sus empleados y asistir a las personas elegibles a llenar sus solicitudes, con la participación de grupos comunitarios y legales locales de promoción de ciudadanía como NALEO, CARECEN y las Caridades Católicas. Todo es parte del “Proyecto Bethlehem”, que enlaza a empresas con organizaciones comunitarias para impulsar y facilitar la naturalización de empleados.

La Cámara de Comercio de Los Ángeles también está involucrada en este esfuerzo.

“Tratamos de explicarle a nuestra comunidad de negocios que la naturalización ayuda al crecimiento económico y al crecimiento de los negocios”, dijo Alysia Bell, portavoz de la cámara. “Cuando los residentes legales se hacen ciudadanos, gastan más, hay más estabilidad, más ingresos, pueden formarse mejor para llenar vacíos en la economía”.

Es un proyecto que ya se ha iniciado también en otras ciudades: Miami fue la primera, también la capital D.C. y en Silicon Valley, en el Norte de California. La idea no es nueva, pero sí ha sido poco utilizada.

El nombre del proyecto viene de una empresa, Bethlehem Steel, una acerera que en 1915 se convirtió en la primera gran compañía estadounidense en ofrecer clases de inglés gratis a su fuerza de trabajo inmigrante.

Bertha García, una mexicana de 48 años de edad que trabaja en reparación de prendas en American Apparel desde hace 4 años, agradece el hecho de que los talleres vinieron a su lugar de trabajo, acompañados de expertos legales y asistencia para llenar formularios. Hasta le dijeron que calificaba para no pagar la tarifa de 595 dólares que normalmente cuesta la ciudadanía, por sus bajos ingresos.

“Si ellos no nos hubieran traído la información, los folletos y nos hubieran informado y facilitado todo esto, capaz que no lo hacía. Cuesta tiempo ir a buscar la información, movilizarse, etc”, dijo García, quien una vez que logre naturalizarse piensa reunificar a su familia, trayendo una hija que aún está en México y facilitando la ciudadanía a su hijo de 14 años.

García asistió a los talleres que vinieron a la fábrica. Hubo tres, el primero informativo, el segundo para identificar posibles aplicantes y los documentos que les faltaba y el tercero para llenar las solicitudes. En total, más de 400 personas recibieron información y se completaron 32 solicitudes de ciudadanía.

Janet Torres, portavoz de American Apparel, dijo que la empresa también está organizando un programa de micr préstamos para pagar la tarifa de los empleados y después descontarla poco a poco de los cheques sin interés.

“Para nosotros no fue algo difícil ya que el dueño de esta empresa siempre ha estado muy interesado en el tema migratorio”, dijo Torres. “Ahora estamos planeando traer clases de inglés y hacer los talleres en nuestras otras locaciones en Garden Grove, Hawthorne, South Gate y el Este de Los Ángeles”.

El que las corporaciones que tanto se benefician del trabajo de estos inmigrantes participen en promover su integración en este país es algo positivo para todos, dijo Ali Noorani, presidente del National Immigration Forum, la organización nacional que creó el proyecto.

“Este es apenas un comienzo, y realmente un proceso para que las compañías hablen del valor de sus trabajadores en forma diferente”, dijo Noorani. “Muchas de estas empresas han estado bajo escrutinio y bajo presión por el tema migratorio y ahora pueden levantarse y decir, estos trabajadores están integrándose, aprendiendo inglés, y contribuyendo con Estados Unidos”.

Hace pocos años American Apparel perdió a 2 mil empleados que no pudieron demostrar que estaban autorizados para trabajar legalmente en el país tras una auditoría de los archivos de personal realizada por el gobierno.

Torres apunta que “muchos de estos fueron fundadores de nuestra empresa y si pudiéramos ayudar en algo a traerlos de nuevo cuando haya una reforma, con gusto lo haríamos”.

Queda en el aire qué tanto éxito tendrá el programa entre otros empleadores y corporaciones. La próxima empresa local en participar será Altamed Health Services, con oficinas en los condados de Los Ángeles y Orange.

“Hasta ahora solo las compañías de alta tecnología se habían involucrado directamente en ayudar los procesos migratorios de sus trabajadores”, apuntó Noorani. “Esto cambia las cosas e integra al sector de servicios y manufacturero de este país”.

Sin duda, uno de los sectores que más se beneficia del sudor diario de los inmigrantes en Los Ángeles y más allá.

‘Bethlehem Project’ urges companies to help employees become citizens

Miami Herald

April 24 2013

By Alphonce Shiundu

Immigrant workers who are eligible to become U.S. citizens have something to smile about: their employers may be willing to help them through the naturalization process.

Tuesday, the National Immigration Forum launched a nationwide initiative at Miami Dade College to encourage businesses to help their immigrant employees become citizens.

The effort has been dubbed “The Bethlehem Project” in honor of Bethlehem Steel, which in 1915 became one of the first U.S. employers to provide free English-language instructions to its foreign workforce.

The National Immigration Forum hopes that modern-day businesses emulate that legacy to help eligible immigrant employees become citizens.
“The Bethlehem Project is a unique opportunity for businesses to work with their immigrant workforce so that this dream of citizenship is something that can be achieved for all,” said Ali Noorani, the Washington. D.C.-based group’s executive director, who was on hand at the event at MDC’s Wolfson campus in downtown Miami.

Eduardo Padron, president of Miami Dade College, called Miami a “a shining example” and “an exemplary symbol of what immigrants have been able to do”, and urged businesses to help expedite the naturalization process.

“Becoming a citizen not only provides you with even greater responsibility for civic engagement involving all the things that are important for American citizens, but also helps you and helps the companies involved to really get a better return on investment,” Padron said.

Attending Tuesday’s event was Raquel Araujo-Escobar, an engineering supervisor at Intercontinental Miami from Brazil in the process of getting her U.S. citizenship. Becoming a citizen will not only help her have a voice in national decisions, she said, but also will help enable her to earn a higher salary.

“In an age where pay cuts are taking place, this is a free service that you can provide to your employees,” said Leonie Timothee, the Human Resources and Talent Development Manager at the Intercontinental Miami. She is a Hatian immigrant who is now a citizen.

About 60 percent of Miami’s population is composed of immigrants, noted former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz.

A 2012 report from the Department of Homeland Security’s office of immigration statistics said at least 8.5 million green card holders nationwide are eligible to seek citizenship.

Piden que empresas ayuden a inmigrantes a hacerse ciudadanos

El Nuevo Herald

April 24 2013

By Alfonso Chardy

Eduardo Padrón, presidente del Miami Dade College (MDC), dijo el martes que aún recuerda con emoción el día en que juró lealtad a Estados Unidos, haciéndose ciudadano en 1972 luego de haber huido de Cuba en 1961 a la edad de 15 años.

“Tenía lágrimas en los ojos”, recordó Padrón durante una entrevista al final de un evento en el recinto del Miami Dade College en el downtown en el que el MDC anunció su participación en una iniciativa de un grupo nacional de activistas de inmigración para que las empresas privadas ayuden a sus empleados inmigrantes a convertirse en ciudadanos estadounidenses.

La iniciativa, que será a nivel nacional, fue lanzada en Miami el martes por el grupo Foro Nacional de Inmigración que tiene su sede en Washington y que está involucrado en campañas para persuadir al Congreso a aprobar una reforma migratoria que legalizaría a más de 11 millones de inmigrantes indocumentados en el país.

El proyecto viene en momentos en que el Congreso se prepara a debatir una ley de reforma migratoria que otorgaría estatus provisional a los indocumentados que luego tendrían que esperar 10 años para poder solicitar residencia permanente.

Un informe publicado el año pasado por la oficina de estadísticas del Departamento de Seguridad Interna (DHS) dice que para el 1ro de enero del 2011 había en Estados Unidos un total de 13.1 millones de inmigrantes con tarjeta verde de residencia permanente y que unos 8.5 millones de ellos podrían solicitar la ciudadanía. Por lo general, los inmigrantes legales pueden solicitar la ciudadanía a los cinco años de recibir la residencia permanente o a los tres años si están casados con un estadounidense.

Según cifras distribuidas durante la conferencia de prensa, Miami se ubica entre las cuatros zonas urbanas de país con el mayor número de inmigrantes legales que pueden solicitar ciudadanía. Las cifras muestran que Miami tiene 520,000 inmigrantes elegibles para pedir ciudadanía. Los Angeles tiene 1.6 millones.

Ali Noorani, director ejecutivo del Foro Nacional de Inmigración, dijo que la iniciativa lleva el título de Proyecto Bethlehem en honor de la antigua fábrica de acero Bethlehem Steel que en 1915 fue una de las primeras compañías estadounidenses en dar lecciones de inglés gratuitas a sus empleados inmigrantes.

“Las empresas que ayudan a sus empleados a hacerse ciudadanos son ejemplos modernos del legado de Bethlehem Steel”, dijo Noorani en su discurso al inicio del evento.

Padrón habló a continuación, relatando detalles de como MDC ha comenzado a ayudar a sus empleados a convertirse en ciudadanos.

“Enviamos un correo electrónico a los empleados que decía que si usted es un residente legal permanente, y le interesa hacerse ciudadano y desea ayuda con el proceso de solicitud, ayuda para estudiar para la prueba, ayuda para aprender inglés, nos vamos a reunir en tal lugar”, explicó Padrón. “Bien, más de 150 empleados se presentaron”.

Leoni Timothee, gerente de recursos humanos y desarrollo de talentos para la empresa InterContinental Miami, dijo que varios de sus empleados pueden solicitar ciudadanía y que reciben ayuda de la compañía para hacerse ciudadanos.

Timothee, haitiana de nacimiento, present’o a una de las empleadas del hotel InterContinental Miami, Raquel Araujo Escobar, que habló sobre su solicitud de ciudadanía luego de tener residencia por más de cinco años como inmigrante brasileña.

“Envié mi paquete con la solicitud y tres semanas después recibí la cita para que me tomaran las huellas digitales”, dijo Araujo. “Ahora el 1ro de mayo voy a tener mi entrevista y estoy muy entusiasmada”.

Manny Díaz, el ex alcalde de Miami, cerró el evento diciendo que la ciudad se ha convertido en un ejemplo nacional de diversidad étnica.

“Miami es una ciudad donde el 60 por ciento de nuestros residentes nacieron en el extranjero”, dijo Díaz, que nació en Cuba y se hizo ciudadano en los años 70. “Somos una ciudad de inmigrantes. Somos una ciudad construida por inmigrantes”.

Program helps immigrant workforce find the road to citizenship in the workplace

South Florida Business Journal

April 23 2013

By Shaun Bevan

It all started with Bethlehem Steel in the early 1900s when they began providing free English language instruction to its immigrant workforce.

Nearly one hundred years later, the National Immigration Forum is taking Bethlehem’s idea one step further with a project dedicated to providing a path to citizenship for immigrant workers.

The forum’s Bethlehem Project began with a pilot several months ago in four cities including Miami, which has 520,000 workers who are eligible for citizenship. The other locations include Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, Calif. and the Washington, D.C. metro area.

The project, which launched officially on Tuesday, provides a road map of sorts for accessible citizenship assistance through a three-step process and involves local businesses to provide the time and place for these sessions.

“I think sometimes people have a fear or don’t have an understanding of how the naturalization process works,” said Leonie Timothee, human resource director for the InterContinental Miami hotel, which is one of the South Florida businesses involved in the project. “To be able to have your job give you the opportunity and the time at the workplace gives the employee a comfort level that this is an organization we can rely on.”

The program comes at no costs and provides three levels of assistance beginning with:

<ul><li>Pre-screening workshop: Normally hosted within the workplace during breaks or before/after hours, these workshops will determine whether an employee is eligible for citizenship and will provide information about the application process.</li>

<li>Application workshop: Employees are invited to a application workshop either at the worksite or offsite. They receive in-person assistance and use a computer program to assist with determining edibility and completing the application.</li>

<li>Classroom instruction: The final step involves group and one-on-one classes either onsite or offsite to help employees pass the naturalization test along with providing English instruction.</li></ul>

Along with the InterContinental, the Betsy Hotel South Beach and Miami Dade College have joined the project to provide a venue for the workshops.

Timothee, who says her hotel has about 15 to 20 percent of employees eligible for the program, said the project provides a free benefit for employees that can help recruit workers for a business.

“You may not be able to provide the employee with a pay raise, but you can provide this free service for them,” she said. “And this may be a tool you can use to promote your recruitment. It shows you as being a responsible business and you can get your colleagues to be engaged.”

For a business, all they have to do is provide a location and the National Immigration Forum handles the rest, she said.

“All I do is create a signup sheet, which is very little hassle,” she said. “They come in and setup the room, the laptop and the presentation. All they need is the space to go from there.”

The National b hosted a press conference at Miami Dade College’s Wolfson Campus on Tuesday to launch the Miami contingent of the Bethlehem project.For more information on the project go to

Miami acoge foro nacional de inmigración para ayudar en solicitud ciudadanía


April 22 2013

Miami acogerá mañana el denominado “Proyecto Bethlehem”, el primer foro de inmigración en el que participan organizaciones comunitarias locales y empresas privadas para ayudar a empleados inmigrantes en el proceso de solicitud de ciudadanía.

La organización Foro Nacional de Inmigración llevará a cabo en el campus universitario del Miami Dade College una conferencia en la que se expondrá el programa de ayuda a los “empleados inmigrantes” para la adquisición de la ciudadanía estadounidense y que sean, así, “trabajadores más valiosos”, señaló el Proyecto Bethlehem.

Este novedoso proyecto de apoyo a los inmigrantes cuenta ya con la implicación en Miami de compañías del sector de servicios como los hoteles Betsy South Beach e Intercontinental, además del respaldo de Miami Dade College, aunque se espera que se sumen más empresas del sector privado en Estados Unidos.

Esta iniciativa es una “primera alianza” para la “integración de inmigrantes”, y se lanza en Miami porque esta ciudad es un “ejemplo de una urbe que se ha beneficiado muchísimo de la productividad e innovación de los inmigrantes”, dijo a Efe Mario Moreno, directivo del Foro Nacional de Inmigración, el grupo comunitario organizador del acto.

A este respecto, Moreno recordó que en el sur de Florida residen unos 520.000 inmigrantes, muchos empleados en el sector de servicios, que pueden beneficiarse de un camino hacia la ciudadanía.

Patricia Maldonado, del Proyecto Bethlehem, se refirió al “esfuerzo de inversión” que realizan las empresas privadas en sus empleados y destacó la acción conjunta con grupos comunitarios para ayudar a los inmigrantes con estatus legal a adquirir la ciudadanía.

Otro aspecto medular de este proyecto es que concentra la ayuda en un solo programa que incluye cursos de “inglés como segunda lengua, instrucción cívica y servicios legales de ciudadanía”, clases que se impartirá en los propios centros laborales, explicó Moreno.

En estos momentos en que se registra un debate de la reforma migratoria en nuestro país, esta iniciativa es una “oportunidad” para señalar “lo importante que es tener programas de integración efectivos que tengan el apoyo de la comunidad de negocios”, resaltó el activista.

Maldonado expresó su confianza en que el lanzamiento de esta iniciativa en Miami tenga un al alcance nacional y atraiga a muchas otras compañías del territorio nacional.

“Estamos hablando con un montón de compañías, sobre todo, hoteles y restaurantes, donde trabajan muchos empleados inmigrantes”, añadió Maldonado.

El Foro Nacional de Inmigración (National Immigration Forum) es una organización sin ánimo de lucro creada en 1982 que aboga por los inmigrantes y “promueve políticas federales de inmigración” basadas en la idea fundacional de Estados Unidos como “tierra de oportunidades”.

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