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Press Statement: Despite Economic Hurdles Immigrants Strive to Become U.S. Citizens, Expand their Political Voice

By September 13, 2009No Comments

Immigrant and Labor Groups Announce Citizenship Push to Help Applicants Overcome Economic Barriers, Boost Naturalization Rates

Published September 11, 2009 3:37 PM
Ali Jost, (202) 730-7159,

Despite Economic Hurdles Immigrants Strive to Become U.S. Citizens, Expand their Political Voice
Following National Citizenship Day on Sep. 17, Groups Will Hold 25 workshops in AZ, CA, CO, DC, FL, IL,

Washington, DC–Today–less than a week before National Citizenship Day on September 17–ya es hora ¡Ciudadania! (Citizenship: It’s Time!), national community partners and the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC) announced that more than 25 citizenship events are being held across the country this September to help thousands of eligible immigrants apply for U.S. citizenship. The nationwide push comes as the citizenship fee increase and economic recession have contributed to a decrease in naturalization applications.

“Supporting the rapid integration of immigrants into the economic and civic life of this country helps us build a stronger democracy and a more prosperous America,” said Eliseo Medina, Executive Vice President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). “Particularly as our nation faces economic challenges, it is our duty to address these economic barriers and match immigrants’ ever-growing motivation to participate fully in U.S. civic life with the tools and resources they need to naturalize.”

In an effort to support eligible immigrants facing increased economic hurdles, this month’s workshops–which will take place in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia–will provide free and low cost legal and administrative support to help eligible immigrants prepare and submit their applications. The workshops begin September 12 and last through the end of the month.

“Immigrants have always surmounted incredible obstacles as they integrate into the economic, social and civic fabric of this country, but today’s citizenship application fees have added an even higher bar that prevents too many from going through the process,” said Clarissa Martinez de Castro, Director of Immigration and National Campaigns for the National Council of La Raza (NCLR). According to an analysis just released by NCLR, after the fee to apply for U.S. citizenship jumped from $400 to $675 in 2007, the number of naturalization applications fell by 62 percent in 2008.
“But where there is a will, there is a way–and that’s why the ya es hora citizenship workshops and public education campaigns are so critical to helping these striving immigrants reach their dream and achieve the full responsibilities and opportunities of U.S. citizenship,” Castro continued.

“As America faces a political crossroads, working to fix our economy, reform healthcare and pass smart immigration reform, new Americans will play a bigger role than ever in shaping our shared future,” said EunSook Lee, Executive Director of the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC.) During NAKASEC’s National Mobilization for Citizenship Day on Sept. 16-17, more than 250 new Americans from 32 states will gather in Washington, D.C. for advocacy trainings and legislative visits.
“With citizenship comes tremendous responsibility,” Lee continued. “It’s our duty to ensure new Americans are active and well informed so they can help resolve the challenging economic and social issues that face America today.”

“Today, we are seeing what we have seen since America’s inception–new Americans stand out as a patriotic community, loyal to American ideals, and optimistic about America’s potential,” said Sylvia Garcia, President of the NALEO Education Fund and Commissioner of Harris County in Texas. “Part of the responsibility of U.S. citizenship includes the work we all do to honor our nation’s values of inclusion and opportunity for all, and that’s what must guide our work this Citizenship Day as we ensure all those eligible receive the information they need to keep this dream of American inclusion alive.”

The ya es hora ¡Ciudadania! campaign–led nationally by the NALEO Educational Fund, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Spanish language media partners Univision, Entravision and Impremedia–helped more than 1.4 million immigrants naturalize in 2007, the largest number since 1997.

For more information about ya es hora September citizenship workshops and NAKASEC’s Unity in Movement: 2009 National Mobilization for Citizenship Day, please contact SEIU’s Ali Jost.

ya es hora ¡Ciudadania! (Citizenship: It’s Time!) is an unprecedented campaign to inform, educate and motivate eligible permanent residents in the United States to apply for U.S. citizenship. Since helping a record one million immigrants become U.S. Citizens in 2007, the campaign has built a nationwide network to help immigrants overcome the economic and bureaucratic hurdles on their path to U.S. citizenship. National partners include the Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, the NALEO Educational Fund, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and Spanish language media partners Univision, Entravision and Impremedia.

National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC) is a consortium of local community groups nationwide with the mission of projecting a national progressive voice on major civil rights and immigrant rights issues and promote the full participation of Korean Americans in American society.