While many discussions around immigration, especially in an election season, tend to focus on the challenges posed by the large undocumented population that exists in the U.S., the substantial number of legal residents hovering in the liminal space between ‘resident-alien’ and fully naturalized citizen often get overlooked. According to Corporation grantee The New Americans Campaign (NAC), only 8% of those eligible for citizenship chose to become naturalized last year. Lack of knowledge about the process, coupled with the $680 application fee, can pose challenges and create barriers to citizenship that seem too difficult to surmount. NAC brings nonprofit organizations and community leaders together in order to help immigrants navigate the citizenship process and avoid legal scams or bad advice.
According to NAC, this election cycle has seen a 15% increase in the amount of eligible immigrants desiring to become naturalized citizens. Gaining the ability to vote is a major motivating factor. Long Lee, a Laotian immigrant who finalized his application in March, was excited by the idea that he would finally be able to have a voice. “I understand that there are benefits to becoming an American,” said Lee, “Most important is to vote, to pick out the right person to run for the job. That's most important to me.”
Lee is not alone in this sentiment. Voting is a marker of one’s place in American society. It’s a way to enmesh oneself into the fabric of the country and to serve it. It’s also a privilege only granted to citizens. Thanks to the many efforts and partnerships undertaken by the New Americans Campaign, immigrants across the country will be able to play their part in the nation’s future this November.
For more information on current initiatives and partnerships, visit the New Americans Campaign online.