A coalition of legal, business and religious groups is launching a new drive to help qualifying legal U.S. residents gain citizenship in eight major cities nationwide. (Photo : Reuters)
A new drive to help qualifying legal U.S. residents gain citizenship has recently kicked off in major cities nationwide.
The drive is sponsored by the New Americans Campaign, a civic group dedicated to helping immigrants become U.S. citizens, and will provide $20 million in legal aid to green card holders looking to go through the naturalization process.
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More than 8 million legal residents may currently qualify for citizenship, the group estimates, but may not know how to do so.
Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, told KCRW, that those immigrants face many obstacles.
"There's a very high cost, about $700 per person per application. Individuals need to demonstrate a knowledge of English and civics. And often, we know that there is a lack of adult English classes for people to learn the English that they want to learn in order to apply for citizenship," he said.
Often, immigrants seeking legal assistance are often subject to victimization from dishonest attorneys, Vargas added.
The campaign is partnering with local libraries, schools, businesses and religious groups to build awareness and advertise new online tools--among them the CitizenshipWorks website, which provides a guide for immigrants to understand and go through the citizenship protocols.
Eric Cohen, executive director of the national non-profit Immigrant Legal Resource Center, says the campaign's goal is to "fundamentally transform" the naturalization system by creating new levels of collaboration and innovation among more than 80 non-profits, businesses and other institutions that assist legally qualified residents in becoming U.S. citizens
"The more our communities harness the civic and economic participation of new citizens, the stronger and more vital we will be as a nation," said in a statement. "The New Americans Campaign aims to fundamentally transform the entire system of naturalization assistance through."
The center provides legal trainings and advocacy to advance immigrant rights.
Eight major cities will be targeted by the campaign around the country--including New York, Miami, Charlotte, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles and San Jose--where roughly 3.3 million, or about 40 percent, of residents that can qualify for citizenship live.