Earlier this summer, the White House convened a summit that brought together leaders in the field of immigrant integration from across the country. One workshop focused on naturalization, and that session, co-facilitated by the National Partnership for New Americans, a NAC partner, provided an opportunity for NAC partners and others to use their expertise and explore ways to encourage naturalization.
Among the suggestions:
• Allow Americorps volunteers to support citizenship education and naturalization application assistance. This might be done by expanding the topics included in the Economic Opportunity focus area of Americorps.
• Reduce the fee for naturalization. The naturalization application fee is a barrier for some who would otherwise apply for citizenship.
• Provide incentives to small businesses. This would increase business willingness to help and encourage their employees to become citizens. One such incentive, an annual White House award for businesses making exemplary efforts to help employees integrate, was included in a version of the immigration reform bill.
• Target low-literate immigrants eligible for naturalization with messages reinforcing the idea that they can succeed in learning what they are required to learn for citizenship. Making the process less threatening to this group will augment citizenship applications.
Our partners and service providers have spent decades working on helping lawful permanent residents become citizens. These suggestions are a reflection of the work we’ve done already at workshops around the country, and the work we hope to do in the coming years.