The 2020 election marks a turning point that offers new opportunities for naturalization. There is much talk of positive immigration reforms and much work to do. The U.S. is currently home to 9 million lawful permanent residents eligible to naturalize. During the worst months of the pandemic, the route to U.S. citizenship was completely shut down by USCIS office closures. Even now, a huge backlog is moving at a crawl. “States have a unique opportunity to move the needle on naturalization,” says Melissa Rodgers, Director of Programs at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center and leader of the New Americans Campaign. “Simple actions taken right now will yield lifelong benefits for the person naturalizing; and at the same time have momentous economic and civic benefits for the state itself.”
The New Americans Campaign has created a guide to help state and local leaders find effective ways to move forward. The State Government Guide to Promoting U.S. Citizenship and Facilitating Naturalization is available to all state and local governments, as well as the nongovernmental organizations that work with them. The report outlines the many economic, legislative, and personal benefits of naturalization for aspiring citizens and the communities in which they live, providing links to published research that shows the gains that cities and states make when new Americans and their families thrive.
The State Government Guide includes five valuable, and road-tested recommendations for state governments to make the route to U.S. citizenship clear and accessible. The strategies include pragmatic approaches to breaking down the barriers to naturalization like affordability, language, access to legal services, and fear. The recommendations explore the funding, communications, and training that can promote U.S. citizenship and support naturalization services with the help of local government and trusted NGOs.
Finally, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center has produced an accompanying model law that is designed to help lawmakers, policymakers, and advocates at the state and local levels. The law provides for access to immigration legal services including naturalization and is based on approaches tested in California, Illinois, New York, and Washington. The model law establishes funding and direction for the promotion of naturalization services, including a state office of new Americans, guidelines for performance measures, contracting provisions, and criteria and options for funding.
Read the full guide here: The State Government Guide to Promoting U.S. Citizenship and Facilitating Naturalization. Download it and share it with all those who are working to encourage naturalization in your state.