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.