NPNA Applauds Biden Plan to Proactively Promote Citizenship; Urges Community Engagement to Reduce Backlogs & Reverse Naturalization Barriers
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released a report on plans to proactively promote naturalization to the over nine million immigrants eligible for citizenship. The report reflects many of the issues the National Partnership for New Americans has been advocating for, including taking steps to reduce citizenship application backlogs, reducing fees for the citizenship process, and increasing funding for organizations working with the community.
“The National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA) applauds the administration’s plan to proactively promote naturalization, turn the tide on previous barriers to citizenship, and work directly with immigrant communities – changes which we have fought for over many years. As we celebrate and come together as a country on July 4, the importance of easing routes to becoming an American is more clear than ever,” said Nicole Melaku, executive director of NPNA.
The plan would implement an executive order from the first days of the Biden/Harris administration and be carried out by a working group of federal agencies’ heads, chaired by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary. The report lays out the administration’s plan to:
- Raise awareness of citizenship, eligibility, and the economic, social, and civic benefits that come with naturalization, as recently detailed in a NPNA briefing paper;
- Integrate immigrants into United States society;
- Promote civic integration and inclusion of immigrants;
- Build community capacity for naturalization;
- Eliminate fears related to applying for citizenship; and
- Advance equity in access to naturalization for those who have been historically excluded based on race, gender, lack of English-language proficiency, disability, and LGBTQ identities.
The plan would coordinate among federal agencies and work with state and local entities like the Offices of New Americans. The plan also models provisions from the New Deal for New Americans Act, introduced earlier this year by Rep. Grace (D-N.Y.) Meng and Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), as the first comprehensive immigrant integration legislation at the federal level, with provisions that would reduce barriers to naturalization, institute voluntary, automatic voter registration for new citizens, and promote workforce development programs for immigrants as an economic recovery engine.
“We’re ready, as a network of advocates and legal services providers, to partner with the administration and naturalize two million new citizens by the end of 2022. We encourage the administration to work closely with community-based organizations, building their capacity to offer legal representation, and to accompany this plan with an aggressive strategy to reduce the backlog of nearly a million citizenship applications and ramp up reversing the previous administration’s barriers,” added Melaku.
The NPNA network sent a letter to the DHS Secretary in March 2021 outlining policy recommendations that would facilitate naturalization, including some of which have since been carried out. The network has advocated for expanding access to citizenship by passing the New Deal for New Americans Act, which would reduce citizenship application fees, protect fee waivers, and create a series of measures to proactively promote naturalization, similar to some elements of the plan released today in the administration’s report (including Public Service Announcements, media and social media engagement, partnering with cities, holding naturalization ceremonies at national parks to raise awareness, and using the U.S. Postal Service to promote citizenship).