In partnership with local foundations, the City of San Francisco has announced the launch of a three-year, $1.2 million initiative to help eligible immigrants obtain U.S. citizenship.
The San Francisco Pathway to Citizenship Initiative will provide $400,000 a year — $200,000 a year each from the city and the county's Office of Civic Engagement & Immigrant Affairs — to organizations working to help immigrants navigate a path to naturalization. The funds will be matched by the Asian Pacific Fund, the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, the Walter & Elise Haas Fund, and the San Francisco and Wallace Alexander Gerbode foundations. Recipients include lead agency Self-Help for the Elderly, the Asian Law Caucus, Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, Catholic Charities CYO, the International Institute of the Bay Area, Jewish Family and Children's Services, and La Raza Community Resource Center. According to San Francisco Foundation CEO Sandra Hernandez, the initiative is designed to prepare local agencies for a congressional deal on immigration reform.
Of the estimated hundred thousand eligible immigrants in the Bay Area — a number that includes asylum seekers, refugees, and immigrants sponsored by family members who are legal residents of the U.S. — many are either unaware of the services available to them or unsure of how to start the process, often because they speak little English. In its first year, the public-private partnership will target its outreach efforts to at least twenty-five thousand eligible immigrants.
"The process is paper intensive and cumbersome, and if they don't know how to navigate the system, many folks who are eligible don't get the ball rolling," said Hernandez. "This new initiative will change the lives of hundreds of thousands of San Franciscans and strengthen the social and economic fabric of the city for all of us by bringing people into our economic and civic process, lowering poverty rates, increasing economic mobility and access to higher education, ensuring greater access to affordable health care, and enhancing civic participation."