Washington Leaders Celebrate Citizenship and Immigrant Integration
September 21, 2011
Experts Announce Data on Number of Legal Immigrants Eligible to Become U.S. Citizens.
Washington, D.C. — Members of Congress, immigrant legal service providers, new citizens and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Alejandro Mayorkas celebrated Citizenship and Constitution Day on Capitol Hill on September 21.
Earlier in the day, USCIS announced the award of $9 million in grants to expand citizenship and integration programs. The grants will be awarded to 42 organizations ranging from public or nonprofit organizations that provide citizenship preparation services to eligible immigrants.
According to government data, 7.9 million immigrants are currently eligible for citizenship. The top 20 states with large immigrant populations eligible for citizenship are California, New York, Texas, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Arizona, Washington, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Michigan, Georgia, Colorado, Connecticut, Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio. In Florida for example, 680,000 legal permanent residents are eligible for naturalization which represents 5.3% of the voting eligible population. In Illinois, 340,000 immigrants are eligible to naturalize or 3.8% of the voting eligible population. For NALEO’s complete state breakdown of legal permanent residents eligible to naturalize please visit: http://tinyurl.com/CitizenshipByNumbers
The following quotes can be attributed to participants in the Citizenship Day event, as listed below:
Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL): “New citizens are renewing Chicago and cities across the country, opening businesses, reinvigorating the political landscape, reminding us of what citizenship really means. So I support any effort to move more eligible immigrants towards citizenship. Last year, Ignacia Moya, at age 106, took the oath of citizenship in my District and she told me it was because she wanted to vote and be a citizen like her children and grandchildren. Such moments are touching and renew the patriotism of all of us, even those of us who were lucky enough to be born here.”
Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA): “As a child, I remember listening to the stories of my immigrant grandfather's journey to America. He arrived on our shores alone and with little understanding of the English language. Today, I don't speak Swedish and have the honor of representing my community in the House of Representatives. I have no doubt that today's immigrants to our great nation will integrate like my grandfather and the family he started here. We must always remember that America is a great amalgam of the world's cultures and that we are all stronger for it.”
Ali Noorani, Executive Director, National Immigration Forum: “This nation owes its strength and freedom to its diversity and immigrant heritage. Becoming a U.S. citizen is hard work. We place so many barriers before immigrants, from lengthy bureaucratic backlogs to exorbitant fees to unrealistically restrictive legal immigration channels. Providing a workable path to citizenship for those who desire it and allowing immigrants to be fully integrated into U.S. society is extremely beneficial for this country. Integration is a key to entrepreneurship and future economic growth.”
Matthew Burnett, Associate Director, Immigration Advocates Network: “CitizenshipWorks (www.citizenshipworks.org) provides an accessible starting point for those who don’t know where to turn to begin the naturalization process. By putting critical information and self-help tools online, CitizenshipWorks greatly expands the number of people who will get help in navigating this complex process.”
Arturo Vargas, executive directo, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund: “Each year, Citizenship Day offers Americans an occasion to celebrate the many opportunities afforded by the U.S. Constitution, including the right of newcomers to become naturalized citizens. The fact that Latinos have pursued this opportunity in record setting numbers serves as a testament to the love they have for this country. Their participation in America’s civic life makes our democracy stronger and more vibrant.”
Maria M. Odom, executive director, Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC): CLINIC is honored to celebrate Citizenship Day by recognizing the significant cultural, economic and social contributions of immigrants and their children to the United States. In partnership with our network of more than 200 charitable programs, CLINIC supports naturalization and immigrant integration initiatives that help thousands of permanent residents each year to complete that final step in their long migration journey, thereby accepting all rights, responsibilities and freedoms that only U.S. citizenship bestows."
Morna Ha, executive director, National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC): “Citizenship is one way to ensure that immigrants are able to fully participate and build healthy and valued lives for themselves and their families. But the path to citizenship is a multi-step effort and it is often a complex, tricky and costly process. For Korean Americans and Asian American and Pacific Islanders, many of whom are recent immigrants, and limited English proficient, they do not know how to navigate the system. Organizations rooted in the community, like NAKASEC and its affiliate centers in Los Angeles and Chicago, play a vital role in guiding new Americans through this process with the greater goal of enhancing their political and civic integration.”
For more information on USCIS Citizenship and Integration Grant Program, please visit: http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=2b9aa0920dc82310VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD&vgnextchannel=a2dd6d26d17df110VgnVCM1000004718190aRCRD