New Americans Campaign is helping more Philadelphians apply for citizenship - Generocity Philly

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Apr. 10, 2018 8:00 am

New Americans Campaign is helping more Philadelphians apply for citizenship

The national initiative has been fighting naturalization barriers — and now Philly joins its ranks.

An Esperanza client assisted in the naturalization process.

(Courtesy of Esperanza)

Just before the City of Philadelphia’s Immigrant Business Week, several Philly-based nonprofits kicked off an initiative to support foreign-born residents further.

The New Americans Campaign (NAC), initially launched in 2011 by California-based nonprofit Immigrant Legal Resource Center, has extended its reach to partner with organizations in the Philadelphia area thanks to a $1.5 million investment from NAC founding funder Knight Foundation at the end of 2017.

NAC aims to increase the number of lawful permanent resident (LPR) applications for citizenship across the country — already clocked in at more than 300,000 since its inception.

These are the six Philadelphia orgs selected as inaugural participants:

  • Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS PA)
  • Catholic Social Services
  • Esperanza Immigration Legal Services (EILS)
  • Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Associations Commission (SEAMAAC)
  • African Cultural Alliance of North America (ACANA)
  • Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians

“Esperanza Immigration Legal Services has a long history of partnering very effectively with other Latino, nonprofit agencies in Philadelphia,” said Tina Barber, VP of development for EILS’s parent org, Esperanza. “We’re excited to be able to support organizations who are not Latino, so that we can collaborate around the things that make us the same, while still respecting the things that make us unique and different.”

NAC’s Philadelphia wing is tasked with bringing in an additional 500 applications by June, and of those, the faith-based EILS is responsible for 60. The org offers its own resources, including marketing and development strategies, legal assistance and access to its new Citizenship Access Center, a small computer lab where residents can go to work independently on their applications.

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“For us, this is about ensuring that people have the respect and dignity they deserve,” said Barber, “that we are honoring our mission to serve the most vulnerable.”

A previous naturalization clinic hosted by Esperanza.

A previous naturalization clinic hosted by Esperanza. (Courtesy photo)

According to the Department of Homeland Security, LPRs of the United States may receive public assistance at public universities, accept employment offers and also own property — but there are many advantages they can’t benefit from as non-U.S. citizens. Naturalization would allow them the right to run for office, serve on juries and vote. Lack of access to legal assistance, limited knowledge of the process and cost are but a few obstacles.

That’s where the NAC steps in.

The initiative offers knowledge and resources to help LPRs negate those obstacles, and in Philadelphia, they take the form of free legal screenings and citizenship clinics between now and June. The screenings help LPRs determine their eligibility. Eligible LPRs proceed to clinics at a later date for assistance with their applications.

The remaining clinic dates are listed below:

  • April 12 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Esperanza College cafeteria (4261 N. 5th St.)
  • April 19 from 5 to 7 p.m. at ACANA (5530 Chester Ave.)
  • April 24 from 5 to 7 p.m. at The Archdiocese of Philadelphia (227 N. 18th St.)
  • May 10 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Esperanza College cafeteria
  • May 14  from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at SEAMAAC (2110 S. 8th St.)
  • June 4 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at SEAMAAC

This clinic structure is a replication of the framework of the city’s previously established program Take Action Philly, whose creation was spearheaded by the Philadelphia Bar Association in January 2017.

Barber maintains that the central mission is to ensure that immigrants feel supported: “They are loved in Pennsylvania, they are respected in Pennsylvania, and there are agencies who are going to be there for them when they need services.”

If you’d like to offer non-legal assistance, volunteer here. Passed the bar? Sign up to volunteer your legal expertise here.

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