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Businesses, Immigrants and Advocates Shine Light on Economic Benefits of Citizenship

September 17, 2013

The New Americans Campaign Highlights Links between Citizenship and Prosperity
40 Events Nationwide Are Helping Aspiring Americans Take the Final Step Toward Citizenship

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As part of their nationwide celebration of Citizenship Day, business executives, aspiring Americans and immigration advocates – all partners of the New Americans Campaign – gathered this morning at the Hyatt Regency Washington to highlight the link between citizenship and prosperity.

Using data from a recent University of Southern California study on the economic impact of citizenship at the micro and macro levels, speakers at the event focused on the urgency of helping the country’s 8.8 million legal permanent residents eligible for citizenship take the final step toward their American Dream.

“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,” noted Justin Scoggins, co-author of the USC study, Citizen Gain: The Economic Benefits of Naturalization for Immigrants and the Economy.

With the economic benefits of citizenship on full display, businesses took the stage and explained their reasons for participating in the Bethlehem Project, a groundbreaking program that partners local service providers with businesses — 26 and counting — to provide their citizenship-eligible employees with free or discounted citizenship assistance at the worksite. The Hyatt Regency Washington also announced that it was inaugurating its first citizenship session later this afternoon.

“We are excited to be launching our inaugural citizenship sessions through the Bethlehem Project today for dozens of our legal permanent resident employees,” said Steve Smith, General Manager at the Hyatt Regency Washington. “Our immigrant workers eligible for citizenship will take an important step towards their American dream in this very room in the coming hours.”

“Offering this excellent benefit to our employees does not affect our bottom line, which allows us to continue to compete as ‘choice-employers,’” added Wendy Kallergis, President and CEO of the Greater Miami & the Beaches Hotel Association. “We at the Greater Miami & the Beaches Hotel Association are excited to partner with the Bethlehem Project for this unique opportunity to offer hospitality to our own community and support to our employees.”

“Innovative, effective strategies are being deployed across the country to facilitate the journey to citizenship for these millions of new Americans,” added Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum. “It is an honor to work with businesses, service providers and the community to help immigrants take that final step to U.S. citizenship — and along the way help families and our economy prosper.”

Immigration advocates also emphasized the work of the New Americans Campaign — an unprecedented coalition of business, funders, and national and local service providers that’s employing innovative strategies to make citizenship a reality for 8.8 million legal permanent residents.

“We are proud to be celebrating Citizenship Month by working diligently to help eligible legal permanent residents take the next step to become U.S. citizens,” said Max Sevillia, Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs for the NALEO Educational Fund. “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.”

“As part of the work of the New Americans Campaign, some of the onus has been placed on providing these services in innovative ways that reflect our target communities’ habits,” added Mark O’Brien, the Executive Director at Pro Bono Net. “Immigrants are often early adopters of technology, which is why CitizenshipWorks provides easy-to-use online tools to help low- and moderate-income individuals to answer important questions about their eligibility, better understand the process and prepare for their citizenship tests.”

Nationwide this month, New Americans Campaign partners are holding more than 40 events that are providing thousands of immigrants eligible for naturalization with free or discounted citizenship services such as legal assistance and seminars.

“We know that almost 9 million people are eligible to become U.S. citizens today, but fewer than 10 percent take that step each year,” said Melissa Rodgers, Project Director at the New Americans Campaign. “As the Project Director for the New Americans Campaign — a national network that includes frontline service providers, advocacy organizations and foundations — I celebrate the men and women who have become citizens in the last year and the thousands more who are attending dozens of citizenship events across the country that our New Americans Campaign partners are organizing this very week. This is also the time to celebrate the value of citizenship to individuals, their families, our economy and our democracy.”

One of the hundreds of new Americans whom the Bethlehem Project has helped summed up the day by citing the need for such services for millions of legal permanent residents like her.

“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,” concluded Marizza Contreras, a Bethlehem Project employee participant at The Betsy-South Beach. “I was in the process of hiring a lawyer when the Betsy Hotel presented this wonderful opportunity to work with the Bethlehem Project. Thank you to the Betsy Hotel for making this opportunity available to me and for the Human Resources Department, HR Director Nilmarie Almodovar and the Bethlehem Project staff for providing this incredible service and making it available.”

This work is made possible by the collaboration of the national New Americans Campaign funders: The Carnegie Corporation of New York, The Grove Foundation, The Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, The John S. & James L. Knight Foundation, The JPB Foundation and The Open Society Foundations.

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