NPNA and Over 60 Organizations Call for Congress to Increase Funding for Citizenship Program
WASHINGTON – Yesterday, the National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA), the Coalition for Humane Immigrants Rights (CHIRLA), NALEO Education Fund, UnidosUS, and a total of 64 organizations sent a letter to Congressional appropriators requesting that Congress increase funding for naturalization assistance, as a means of expanding access to citizenship and facilitating social benefits and the economic recovery.
The letter is addressed to Senator Chris Murphy (CT) and Senator Shelley Capito (WV), the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, respectively. It specifically requests that Congress increase the funding for the Citizenship and Integration Grant Program, operated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), from $10 million to $100 million.
“Now is the time to invest in citizenship, as our nation strives for an economic recovery, and as over nine million immigrants are eligible for naturalization but face barriers like high application fees, limited English skills, and a lack of access to legal services,” said Nicole Melaku, Executive Director for NPNA. “Congress must show federal leadership by increasing funding for USCIS’ Citizenship and Integration Grant Program. This is a tried and proven, successful way of expanding access to citizenship and its accompanying economic benefits, such as higher incomes, increased employment rates, more likelihood of home ownership, and a strengthening of local economies, housing markets, and tax bases.”
The Citizenship and Integration Grant Program has existed since 2009 and provides funding for community-based organizations that help immigrants apply for citizenship and study English, a requirement for naturalization. It has helped over 279,000 immigrants prepare for naturalization. However, the letter points out that the current funding only allows the program to reach less than 0.003% of the eligible population annually (27,500 people out of a total of 9,130,000 eligible immigrants nationwide). By increasing the funding to $100 million annually, the letter argues, Congress would expand access to citizenship and create economic stimulus.
“Immigrants are essential and represent the engine propelling this country forward. Access to citizenship provides immigrants with the right to vote, permanent protection against deportation, and the ability to increase their economic opportunities,” said Angelica Salas, Executive Director for CHIRLA. “Congress must exercise leadership by increasing the investment in naturalization services so that immigrants can overcome barriers to citizenship. Such an investment now will ensure an inclusive and equitable economic recovery tomorrow.”
The letter comes as NPNA, CHIRLA, and a network of immigrant rights advocates are preparing for Hispanic Heritage Month, Welcoming Week, and Citizenship Day in September by organizing citizenship legal services clinics and promotional activities, under the banner of the We’re Ready Campaign and #Naturalize2Millionby2022.