With Citizenship Day on September 17, we are proud to announce that we have begun a new Citizenship Application Assistance Project. Affiliates in Arizona, Florida, California, Illinois, and Massachusetts will now provide application assistance to eligible lawful permanent residents (LPRs) to become naturalized U.S. citizens.
NCLR has actively worked on the issue of citizenship since 1991, when we released the report Unlocking the Golden Door, calling for policy reforms and increased engagement by NCLR Affiliates to encourage Hispanic immigrants to naturalize. In 2009, we launched our Citizenship Assistance program. Over the course of two years, we worked with about 48 NCLR Affiliates, local community organizations, and several cooperating businesses to help 11,340 LPRs complete their naturalization applications. During the upcoming year, NCLR will provide subgrants, training, and technical assistance to NCLR Affiliates to expand naturalization programs.
There are approximately nine million LPRs who are currently eligible for citizenship. The vast majority of them want to become U.S. citizens, but many of them have never received information about the application process. There are also barriers to applying that include the high application fee, a shortage of English and civics classes to help applicants prepare for the naturalization exam, and an inadequate supply of legal assistance.
That’s where our Affiliates come in. Many of them share information about the requirements and application process for citizenship through information sessions and community outreach. Affiliates like Chicanos Por La Causa, Hispanic Services Council, Erie Neighborhood House, TODEC Legal Center, and East Boston Ecumenical Community Council provide one-on-one assistance to LPRs so that they can complete the citizenship application. NCLR Affiliates are also providing people with information about the ways that they can overcome costly fees for citizenship, as well as helping them begin on a path of wealth-building for the future. Our Affiliates are also assisting LPRs who are eligible to apply for citizenship by providing ESL classes.
NCLR is also working with Affiliates to innovate the ways that LPRs receive citizenship application assistance. For example, Erie Neighborhood House is using an online platform, Citizenshipworks, in its computer lab to empower LPRs to complete much of the application on their own and then receiving legal assistance to review their application.
Stay tuned to learn more about the ways that NCLR Affiliates are working with LPRs to achieve their goal of becoming U.S. citizens, and creating a stronger America by expanding opportunities for Latinos.