Angela Cheng of the JPB Foundation welcomes New Americans Campaign partners from across the country to the annual naturalization practitioners’ conference. (Photo courtesy of Angela Cheng)

The remarks of Angela Cheng at the Annual New Americans Campaign “United for Citizenship” Conference in Orange County, August 2019

Good morning! My name is Angela Cheng; I’m a program officer at The JPB Foundation.

JPB is a national foundation based in New York and we have supported the NAC since 2012. In April we renewed our grant for the NAC for two years. JPB’s mission is to advance opportunity in the United States through transformational initiatives that empower those living in poverty, enrich and sustain our environment, and enable pioneering medical research.

Yenifer Estevez, Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, helps a workshop participant complete her naturalization application at the Orange County NAC citizenship workshop in August 2019. (Photo by Gail Ablow)

The NAC advances multiple interests of the foundation: immigrant integration, civic engagement, and economic opportunity. We recognize that citizenship has significant social, economic, and civic benefits for new citizens and their families, and for local communities and the country as a whole. The NAC is also an important grant for us because it builds a network, an infrastructure, and supports local organizations through best practices and peer learning, while reaching people who are directly impacted.

My first NAC conference was in Chicago in the spring of 2017. It’s hard to believe that two years have passed!

At the Chicago conference I also offered some welcome remarks, right after Rahm Emanuel, which was kind of intimidating. I don’t want to repeat the same remarks from two years ago, but I do want to repeat that, as a naturalized citizen, I have a lot of personal appreciation for the NAC.

I naturalized 15 years ago, in 2004—just in time to vote in the election that year between George W. Bush and John Kerry. At the time I thought it was the most important election of my lifetime. Becoming a citizen was a very important milestone for me and I “celebrate” my citizenship every time I vote, and every time I travel with my US passport.

Franklin Morgan waits while his mother, Carolina, consults with NAC partner Heather Kwak, World Relief Southern California, at the Orange County NAC citizenship workshop in August 2019. (Photo by Shelly Erceg)

As an immigrant, I reflect all the time, and especially in the past few years, on the opportunities and challenges of being an immigrant in this country. Whether it’s a privileged choice, or a life-saving necessity, or elsewhere along that continuum, immigration is about hope and risk, opportunities and sacrifice, and above all—it’s about love and family. It’s all of the nuances that make us human, regardless of what we look like or where we come from. Immigration is not a problem, and it is not a number.

Lately it’s been easy to feel overwhelmed by the anti-immigrant rhetoric and environment. But whenever I attend a NAC meeting or event, I am always so inspired and energized by the work that all of you do. So thank you for all that you do, for being here, for your passion, and your tireless work. I look forward to continuing to learn from you and to learn with you.

Thank you.

(L-R) Elfnesh Wolde and Nafkot Tola, Horn of Africa Services, Seattle; Messay Mengesha, World Relief Southern California. (Photo by Gail Ablow)
Sandra Sandoval and Connie Cheng of the Citizenshipworks team, and Rodrigo Camarena, director of the Immigration Advocates Network, exchange ideas with Raph Majma, a public interest technology fellow with New America. (Photo by Shelly Erceg)