Initiative Promotes Citizenship among those who are Eligible
Since the beginning of his Administration, President Obama has made clear that we are stronger as a nation when we welcome immigrants and refugees into ourcommunities and harness their entrepreneurial spirit. At its heart, America is and has always been a nation of immigrants. Immigrants and refugees contribute to ourcountry’s social and cultural fabric, and are critical to our country’s continued economic prosperity. Today, on Citizenship and Constitution Day, President Obamalaunched the “Stand Stronger” Citizenship Awareness Campaign, a project with nonprofit Civic Nation, to encourage eligible immigrants to take an important step in theirAmerican journey and commit to citizenship. To launch this effort, the President released a video message to encourage eligible lawful permanent residents (LPRs) to commit to citizenship today.
According to the most recent estimates, there are approximately 13.3 million LPRs living in the United States, and 8.8 million of them are eligible to apply for citizenship. Thisincludes over 3 million refugees who have resettled here since 1975 from countries that span the globe. Nearly one out of every three eligible individuals obtained LPR status in1990 or earlier, meaning that many have been part of our communities for decades. But they don’t yet enjoy all of the rights, benefits, and responsibilities that come with being afull American citizen.
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As a part of his November 2014 executive actions, President Barack Obama established the White House Task Force on New Americans (“Task Force”) — a government-wideeffort tasked with enhancing the integration of immigrants and refugees into our communities. In April 2015, the Task Force released a strategic action plan with a set ofconcrete steps to help promote immigrant and refugee integration by:
· Strengthening existing pathways to naturalization and promoting civic engagement;
· Building welcoming communities;
· Supporting skill development, fostering entrepreneurship, and safeguarding workers; and
· Expanding opportunities for linguistics integration and education.
Launching the “Stand Stronger” Citizenship Awareness Campaign
Today, President Obama launched a national, multilingual public awareness campaign to promote the rights, responsibilities, and opportunities of citizenship among eligible LPRs and to build a volunteer corps that will support them throughout the naturalization process. The “Stand Stronger” Campaign aims to break down the barriers for eligible immigrants and refugees to become U.S. citizens. The campaign reflects the belief that we are, and have always been a nation of immigrants and a nation that welcomes those fleeing persecution, in addition to underscoring that immigrants and refugees make us stronger when they are able to set down roots, harness their skills, contribute to our economy, and commit to citizenship. The Campaign is a project of nonprofit Civic Nation, with assistance from the White House and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The Campaign was launched in conjunction with community partners and civic leaders across the country and produced by República. The “Stand Stronger” campaign is also working with organizations like the PVBLIC Foundation, an in-kind grant making organization, to harness the power of donated advertising space from leading media companies.
As part of the campaign, the White House is working to engage immigrant- and refugee- serving organizations around the country that provide in-person assistance andlegal services to individuals eligible to naturalize; businesses that are providing citizenship workshops and English language classes to their employees; the philanthropiccommunity; and cities and localities that are bringing immigration services to places where immigrants and refugees live and work. To help kick off the campaign, localgovernments, the business community, and non-profit entities will host over 70 citizenship outreach events in the first week alone. Those efforts will complement activitieshosted by the federal government, including 200 naturalization ceremonies that will welcome more than 36,000 new citizens across the country during Constitution Week(September 17-23) and in honor of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day (September 17).
Efforts to Promote Citizenship
Launching the campaign is part of a comprehensive effort by the White House Task Force on New Americans to ensure that eligible LPRs have the tools and support neededto apply for
U.S. citizenship. It complements existing efforts to provide resources to eligible immigrants and refugees as well as to immigrant- and refugee-serving organizations,municipal governments, and other local partners. And it includes new commitments announced by the federal government today:
· Customer Service Enhancements: Today, USCIS announced that it is expanding mobile services to rural communities through a new partnership with the U.S.Department of Agriculture, beginning to allow credit card payments of naturalization fees. USCIS is also launching two new tools for those seeking assistance with thenaturalization process: a citizenship class locator that allows you to find a citizenship or English class in your community, and a new, interactive online civics practicetest. Both of these tools are designed with the user in mind and focused on answering the most pressing questions that soon-to-be citizens might have.
· Presidential Ambassadors for Citizenship and Naturalization: The President is announcing four prominent new Americans and children of immigrants asPresidential Ambassadors for Citizenship and Naturalization. The Presidential Ambassadors include chef and restaurateur José Andrés, actress Diane Guerrero, singerand songwriter Dave Matthews, and former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Fernando Valenzuela. This first-of- its-kind collaboration will harness these Ambassadors’inspirational stories to promote naturalization, bolster integration initiatives, and increase awareness of the contributions of new Americans.
· Expanding Reach of Multimedia, Educational Ads on Naturalization: In July 2015, USCIS released new print, digital, radio public serve announcements (PSAs)about the naturalization process, placing them in select markets in California, New York, Texas, and Florida. Today, USCIS is expanding the reach of these PSAs to sixadditional states—New Jersey, Illinois, Massachusetts, Virginia, Washington, and Arizona. Together, these states are home to 75 percent of all LPRs. Additionally,USCIS will expand its in-language materials, currently provided in Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese, to include Korean and Tagalog.
· Grants Supporting Citizenship and Immigrant and Refugee Integration: USCIS continues to help build community capacity to prepare individuals for citizenshipthrough the Citizenship and Integration Grant Program. Now in its seventh year, the program has awarded a total of $53 million through 262 competitive grants topublic or private non-profit organizations in 35 states and the District of Columbia. USCIS grantees have helped more than 122,000 LPRs prepare for citizenship.Today, USCIS announced $10 million in additional grants to 40 organizations located in 25 states.
· Building Welcoming Communities Campaign: To encourage local communities to engage in local immigrant integration efforts, the Task Force is launching theBuilding Welcoming Communities Campaign in partnership with nonprofit Welcoming America. The President is calling on local communities to act on a set ofprinciples to build inclusive, welcoming communities that allow all residents to thrive and succeed, thereby enhancing communities at large. Forty (40) communitieshave already answered the call to build welcoming communities.
· Welcoming Communities AmeriCorps: The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) is committing 150 Welcoming Communities AmeriCorpsmembers to nearly 100 different communities through partnerships with the YMCA, Catholic Charities, and national refugee resettlement organizations. WelcomingCommunities AmeriCorps will help local communities develop and implement local immigrant and refugee integration plans. CNCS will also prioritize thedevelopment of new local AmeriCorps VISTA partnerships.
· Outreach and Engagement with Municipal Governments: Since local communities play a critical role in welcoming and assisting immigrants and refugees, USCISrelies on state and local partnerships to help educate individuals about naturalization and lawful immigration. Today, USCIS announced new partnerships and renewedlocal partnerships. USCIS now has a total of eight municipal partners, which have established 330 citizenship corners in municipal facilities and conducted more than 20naturalization information sessions at local government venues.
· Enhancing the Meaning and Stature of Citizenship Ceremonies: In September 2006, USCIS and the Department of the Interior’s National Park Service (NPS)signed an agreement to connect America’s newest citizens to national parks throughout the country and has coordinated naturalization ceremonies at many of our 408national parks. Today, USCIS is renewing its partnership with NPS to enhance the meaning and stature of citizenship ceremonies by allowing naturalizationceremonies to take place in our national parks.