Washington, DC - 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 our communities and harness their entrepreneurial spirit. At its heart, America is and has always been a nation of immigrants. Immigrants and refugees contribute to our country’s social and cultural fabric, and are critical to our country’s continued economic prosperity.
Today, on Citizenship and Constitution Day, President Obama launched the “Stand Stronger” Citizenship Awareness Campaign, a project with nonprofit Civic Nation, to encourage eligible immigrants to take an important step in their American 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. This includes 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 in 1990 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 a full American citizen.
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-wide effort 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 of concrete 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 and legal services to individuals eligible to naturalize; businesses that are providing citizenship workshops and English language classes to their employees; the philanthropic community; and cities and localities that are bringing immigration services to places where immigrants and refugees live and work. To help kick off the campaign, local governments, the business community, and non-profit entities will host over 70 citizenship outreach events in the first week alone. Those efforts will complement activities hosted 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 needed to 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 the naturalization process: a citizenship class locator that allows you to find a citizenship or English class in your community, and a new, interactive online civics practice test. 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 as Presidential Ambassadors for Citizenship and Naturalization. The Presidential Ambassadors include chef and restaurateur José Andrés, actress Diane Guerrero, singer and 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 six additional 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 citizenship through the Citizenship and Integration Grant Program. Now in its seventh year, the program has awarded a total of $53 million through 262 competitive grants to public 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 the Building Welcoming Communities Campaign in partnership with nonprofit Welcoming America. The President is calling on local communities to act on a set of principles to build inclusive, welcoming communities that allow all residents to thrive and succeed, thereby enhancing communities at large. Forty (40) communities have already answered the call to build welcoming communities.
- Welcoming Communities AmeriCorps: The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) is committing 150 Welcoming Communities AmeriCorps members to nearly 100 different communities through partnerships with the YMCA, Catholic Charities, and national refugee resettlement organizations. Welcoming Communities AmeriCorps will help local communities develop and implement local immigrant and refugee integration plans. CNCS will also prioritize the development 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, USCIS relies on state and local partnerships to help educate individuals about naturalization and lawful immigration. Today, USCIS announced new partnerships and renewed local partnerships. USCIS now has a total of eight municipal partners, which have established 330 citizenship corners in municipal facilities and conducted more than 20 naturalization 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 408 national parks. Today, USCIS is renewing its partnership with NPS to enhance the meaning and stature of citizenship ceremonies by allowing naturalization ceremonies to take place in our national parks.
- Increasing Low-Cost Legal Services Capacity for Immigrants and Refugees: Many individuals who are eligible to naturalize or obtain other legal remedies face barriers to accessing affordable immigration-related legal services. In recognition of this, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is issuing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to reform the process for becoming a recognized legal service provider and an accredited representative, which will expand the availability of legal services to eligible LPRs at no cost to the public. DOJ will also finalize two rules that will further facilitate access to pro-bono legal services.
Examples of commitments being announced today by the private sector in support of “Stand Stronger” include:
- New Americans Campaign: The New Americans Campaign, launched in July 2011, announced a $10 million commitment over the next two years to support in-person assistance, legal services, and on-going collaboration between 8 national partners, 18 program sites, and approximately 100 local partners across the country. Philanthropic investments in naturalization have totaled nearly $30M since July 2011, including investments from Carnegie Corporation of New York; the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation; the Grove Foundation; the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund; JPB Foundation; the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; as well as the legacy funder Open Society Foundations. In Los Angeles, the California Community Foundation has invested in the local efforts of the Campaign, as have the Ford Foundation in Detroit, the Houston Endowment in Houston, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund in New York.
- National Partnership for New Americans: Through the National Partnership for New Americans, 12 of the largest immigrant advocacy organizations in the country have combined their vast resources and collective reach and experience in order to launch Become a Citizen Now!, a one-stop, free resource for people nationwide to access information about the naturalization process. In addition, each partner offers citizenship services on the ground in 11 different states.
- Cities for Citizenship: Cities for Citizenship is a national initiative aimed at increasing citizenship among eligible LPRs and encouraging cities to invest in citizenship programs. Cities for Citizenship is chaired by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. It also draws support from the Center for Popular Democracy, the National Partnership for New Americans, and Citi Community Development. Almost 20 cities from all across America have joined the initiative, including Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Nashville, Seattle, Pittsburgh, and Atlanta. Many of these cities are using this campaign as an opportunity to re-double their citizenship and naturalization outreach efforts.
- New American Workforce: In partnership with the National Immigration Forum’s New American Workforce, businesses have made commitments to support their immigrant workforce by offering citizenship services at the worksite. Some of these partners are making new commitments, and others are renewing the work they have already started to make sure newly eligible employees are able to take advantage of the benefits of the program and take the final step towards becoming a U.S. citizen. Partners include the Miami Dolphins, Evans Hotels, Doctors Community Hospital and Miami Dade College.
- City of Atlanta: The City of Atlanta, in partnership with USCIS and the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, will roll out the first phase of its Citizenship Corners, which are spaces dedicated to providing resources to eligible immigrants in locations where they live and work. The initial phase of Citizenship Corners in Atlanta will include City Hall, city libraries, two community centers, and two immigrant-owned grocery stores named El Progreso. Also, on Monday, Mayor Kasim Reed hosted a naturalization ceremony at City Hall to welcome 20 new Americans. Community partners were on site to provide additional resources and information while the Coca- Cola Company provided commemorative Coca-Cola bottles that read “Share a Coke with a New American” modeled after their “Share a Coke” campaign.
- City of Los Angeles: During Citizenship Day, Mayor Garcetti will kick off his "Step Forward LA" initiative, which aims to reach out to 100,000 eligible immigrants in Los Angeles, helping them take the necessary steps to become U.S. citizens. The City of Los Angeles will also roll out a citizenship website, Stepforward.lacity.org that will provide resources and information on how to navigate the process of citizenship. Mayor Garcetti will also commemorate the day by attending the USCIS Children’s Ceremony where more than 80 children will become citizens with their families at our public library.
- City of New York: Through a partnership with USCIS, New York City has expanded Citizenship Corners in all of the city’s public libraries, hired and trained community navigators, and increased the number of citizenship workshops available to eligible immigrants in New York City. In recognition of Citizenship Day, Mayor de Blasio will host a naturalization ceremony to welcome 100 new Americans and the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs is working with labor, faith and community partners on a Week of Action on citizenship.
- Cities United for Immigration Action: Cities United for Immigration Action is a cohort of nearly 100 mayors and county executives throughout the country that advocate for immigration reform, as well as state, local, and federal policy that works to enhance immigrant integration.
- San Francisco Pathways to Citizenship Initiative (SFPCI): Launched in July 2013 by Mayor Ed Lee, the San Francisco Pathways to Citizenship Initiative (SFPCI) is a unique partnership between the City and County of San Francisco, philanthropic organizations, and the nonprofit sector to provide assistance and resources to eligible LPRs. Pathways partners have conducted 14 workshops, reaching over one million San Francisco Bay Area residents and training over 500 volunteer mentors. The San Francisco Office of Civic Engagement & Immigrant Affairs provides 50 percent of the total $1.2M funding, in addition to providing other support services to SFPCI.
- Napa Valley Community Foundation: The Napa Valley Community Foundation announced its efforts to expand their investments in the One Napa Valley Initiative by $645,000 over the next two years. This expansion will allow the organization to provide additional support and services to eligible immigrants interested in naturalizing in their area.
- Latina Magazine: Latina Magazine will promote citizenship public awareness material on their various platforms, including online amplification.
- Univision: As part of Univision Contigo, Univision’s empowerment platform, the leading media company serving Hispanic America will provide public service announcements and similar programming across our media platforms to educate those eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship of resources and their rights. In addition, local affiliate stations will highlight local public interest events that serve the community and educate on civic engagement.
- Entravision: Entravision will promote the citizenship campaign on their TV and radio stations. Partnering with local immigrant-serving organizations, local affiliate stations will cover local events.
- People en Español: The popular lifestyle magazine will promote the campaign on their site and digital platforms. The Stand Stronger Campaign will be featured in the Festival People en Español.