What Can Your City Do?
Cities Can Dedicate and Involve City Personnel
Establish a New Office or agency such as an Office of New Americans, or Office of Immigrant Affairs — through an exercise of executive power, and allocate funding to that agency to support naturalization programs.
Establish a City Hotline to answer constituents’ questions about the naturalization process and connect immigrants to city and community-based services.
Create Targeted Initiatives to reach specific demographics to focus limited city dollars where they are most needed, and can build capacity to serve communities without having to alter city government.
Train Municipal Workers such as library employees and school counselors—in the basics of naturalization and have those employees serve as point people to connect constituents with city services or community-based organizations.
Paid Release Time for city workers to attend naturalization trainings, and to volunteer with local organizations to support naturalization work.
Encourage Naturalization for municipal employees. Cities of all sizes have naturalization-eligible immigrants working for city agencies. In large cities, they might number in the thousands.
Empowering legal permanent residents to become citizens will help cities thrive, download Citizenship: A Wise Investment for Cities to learn more about the facts.
Cities Can Fund Naturalization Workshops
Provide ‘Scale Up’ Grants to organizations that already run naturalization workshops to expand their operations and increase the number of applications they process each year.
Partner with Community organizations and ethnic organizations to host citizenship workshops, translate materials, mobilize volunteers, and publicize efforts in the ethnic press.
Offer Use of City Buildings and facilities such as libraries, schools and city colleges for free or at a reduced rate to organizations running naturalization workshops.
Advertise Existing Initiatives through city-sponsored television, print ads, mass transit signboards, social media, public readerboards, newsletters, etc.
Cultivate Private Corporations with a strong local presence as potential sponsors of naturalization initiatives.
Collaborate with Unions so that their members and their families can participate in naturalization workshops.
Work With Credit Unions and other financial institutions to establish low- or no-interest loan programs to help pay high application fees.
Recruit Law Firms and city legal department staff to provide pro bono legal support to clients at naturalization workshops.
Cities CanFund and Support Direct Services
Cities can issue grants to community based organizations already doing naturalization work to continue and scale up individual case work. Funding should also be provided to handle more complex cases that require ongoing support.
Cities can identify their agencies and offices that are key points of contact with immigrant communities and establish a practice of referring potentially eligible individuals to local organizations with expertise on naturalization.
Cities can broker relationships between community-based organizations and private entities interested in public service via direct sponsorship of programs or donation of regular ongoing pro-bono services from law firms, consultants, and others.
Cities Can Publicize, Reach Out and Engage Community
Run Television and Radio Spots featuring the Mayor or other influential political figures, faith leaders, and local celebrities.
Pass Resolutions in the local legislature or issue mayoral proclamations acknowledging the importance of immigrant communities to the social, political and economic life of the city.
Declare Annual ‘Citizenship Day’ or ‘Week’ or ‘Month,’ during which the city celebrates the contributions of immigrants through cultural events and community activities. This may coincide with a series of naturalization workshops or swearing in ceremonies.
Host Swearing-in Ceremonies at which the Mayor presides and speaks. U.S. Immigration & Citizenship Services (USCIS), the federal agency which manages the naturalization process, welcomes such collaboration.
Recruit Citizens to volunteer to support citizenship initiatives, including citizenship classes and naturalization workshops.
Encourage Partners like city vendors, unions and others to motivate their naturalization-eligible employees to apply for naturalization.
State and Federal Relationship Building
Collaboration with federal agencies and state governments can help strengthen municipal citizenship initiatives. Political leaders in immigrant-rich cities should use the annual budget process to argue for investment from their states in local naturalization programs. Cities can also use their influence at the federal level to argue for system-wide changes that will benefit their constituents.
In 2012, for example, the City of Los Angeles signed a letter of agreement with USCIS to coordinate outreach efforts to the city’s 2.5 million citizenship-eligible residents. Cities can:
- Lobby at the state level for funding to support municipal naturalization initiatives.
- Advocate at the federal level for a reduction in naturalization fees, which are prohibitive for many low-income immigrants, and for other policy changes that would remove disincentives to naturalization. USCIS is actively considering a mechanism for fee reduction.
- Establish partnerships with USCIS to connect local efforts with federal resources.
Naturalization initiatives are a great opportunity for cities to connect immigrant constituencies up with other key services and programs. Cities can:
- Provide information about registering to vote at naturalization sites.
- Provide information to naturalization applicants and their families about other avenues for obtaining legal status, such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
- Provide information about eligibility for programs available to citizens, such as coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
- Provide information to naturalization applicants and their families about other state and local immigrant integration initiatives, such as drivers’ licenses or municipal ID cards.