A new report authored by Marion Coddou of Stanford University and part of the New Americans Campaign Best Practices Series Toolkit puts a spotlight on a very promising new model of cooperation that has boosted turnout for San Francisco Bay Area naturalization workshops in Santa Clara, San Francisco and San Mateo counties.
In partnership with local human services agencies, the New Americans Campaign has organized large scale workshops where Campaign partners served thousands of lawful permanent residents (LPRs) seeking free naturalization services. Since partnering with human services agencies, New Americans Campaign partners report increased workshop turnout, attendee preparedness and access to eligible low-income LPRs.
It is estimated that about one third of the 9 million immigrants eligible to naturalize may qualify for a fee waiver. Local New Americans Campaign partners conducting workshops in the Bay Area found that few of the low-income naturalization applicants who came to their workshops knew about the availability of a fee waiver. In each of these three counties, the human services agency worked with New Americans Campaign partners to get the word out to their low-income clients.
Immigrants who are receiving a means-tested benefit, such as Food Stamps, qualify for a waiver of the naturalization application fee, currently $680. The county human services agencies that administer benefits are perfectly poised for outreach about naturalization and the fee waiver.
Today, the human service agencies in the three Bay Area counties conduct robo-calls and send mailers to their clients with information about naturalization workshops, eligibility for naturalization and the fee waiver. They also provide LPRs with proof that they receive a public benefit — something the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services requires as a way of demonstrating eligibility for a fee waiver. The agencies also send their staff to the naturalization workshops to print out benefit receipt letters for attendees who may have lost theirs.
The partnerships have significantly increased the number of LPRs attending the workshops organized by local Campaign partners. For example, in Santa Clara County, organizations conducting workshops for 75 to 100 immigrants were able to conduct three “mega-workshops” since the start of the partnership, the largest attracting 1,400 applicants. In San Francisco, the first workshop organized with this model anticipated 1,000 attendees and 2,400 people showed up. Not only are numbers boosted, but applicants come to the workshops better prepared.
The success of this partnership has also come with important lessons for refining and improving outreach and anticipating the response. Handling phone calls after a large mailing goes out can be a challenge, and New Americans Campaign partners are coming up with innovative ways to efficiently handle the large volume of calls in multiple languages.
Throughout the country, counties can partner with New Americans Campaign collaborations to provide access to U.S. citizenship to a difficult to reach population that otherwise would be less likely to naturalize.
Read the full report here.