A Step Toward Citizenship for 650,000 New Yorkers

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Millions of voters headed to the polls in New York’s primaries this month, and the New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs is working to pave the way for 650,000 more.  NYCitizenship is a new,citywide program intended to make it easier for eligible immigrants to become citizens and exercise their right to vote.

The program encompasses an array of services, including free, one-on-one legal and financial counseling at 12 library branches across the city. Library and city officials hope to make the process easier for those willing and eligible to take this important step. “Increasing immigrant access to citizenship is a powerful and important tool for fighting poverty and supporting the economic empowerment and civic integration of foreign-born New Yorkers,” said Commissioner Nisha Agarwal of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.

All 217 of the city’s library branches will have “New Americans Corners,” providing applications, educational materials, and information promoting legal or financial counseling services free of charge. “The New York Public library system is the most visited institution in the city,” said NYPL President Tony Marx. It’s also a safe place for counseling immigrant New Yorkers, and as Max commented, “you need show no papers, you need prove nothing. You will be respected and served.”

With support from Carnegie Corporation of New York, Citi Community Development, The Robin Hood Foundation, and The Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs, NYCitizenship represents a shared mission to help immigrants and their families integrate, find economic and social stability, and contribute to the fabric of the country.

A recent study by the Urban Institute showed a direct link between citizenship status and higher wages. “New citizens see their wages rise by 9%, or an average of $3,200 dollars a year,” said Agarwal, “if all eligible New York City residents naturalized, the city would see a net economic benefit of $823 million dollars.”

Everyone benefits from the contributions of new citizens, but it requires ongoing effort and support. “We have to be continually committed to be as welcoming of all if we want to attract the talents of all,” said Marx. “That is the secret of New York’s success.”