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

For Immediate Release

Immigrant and Labor Groups
Contact: 

Ali Jost, SEIU (202) 730-7159
Elena Goana, NCLR (202) 776-1568
Evan Bacalao, NALEO (213) 747-7606 x4416

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

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

WASHINGTON - 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 at 202-730-7159.

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