A national network of more than eighty legal service providers, businesses, community leaders, faith-based organizations, and foundations has announced the launch of a campaign that aims to boost the number of legal permanent residents of the United States who become citizens.
With a consortium of foundations committing more than $20 million to the project to date, the New Americans Campaign will work over the next three years to modernize and streamline the system of citizenship support services and enable more green card holders to obtain citizenship. Founding sponsors of the campaign include the Carnegie Corporation of New York; the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund; and the John S. and James L. Knight, Grove, Open Society, and JPB foundations.
While today more than eight million legal permanent residents of the U.S. are eligible to apply for citizenship, only 8 percent do so. Indeed, applicants often face an array of barriers, including high application fees and a complex process that can take up to two years to complete, or are taken advantage of by unscrupulous attorneys and notaries.
Begun as a pilot project in July 2011, the campaign will forge partnerships among service providers, elected officials, the business sector, schools and libraries, and the media; employ new technology tools to assist applicants; and conduct outreach to rural and other hard-to-reach communities. In addition, it will work with nonprofits to disseminate best practices and resources and streamline the citizenship process by holding jointly organized workshops and capacity-building trainings.
"The more our communities harness the civic and economic participation of new citizens, the stronger and more vital we will be as a nation," said Eric Cohen, executive director of the Immigrant Resource Legal Center, which serves as the campaign's main coordinator. "The New Americans Campaign aims to fundamentally transform the entire system of naturalization assistance through new levels of collaboration and innovation among the nonprofits, businesses, and other institutions that assist legally qualified residents in becoming U.S. citizens."