In 2010, looking to the future, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) launched a new service on its website for immigrants who seek to become citizens.
Entitled the Citizenship Resource Center, the government’s new feature seeks to help immigrants better understand the naturalization process and their future responsibilities as U.S. citizens.
The goal is to assist immigrants in not just becoming citizens, but also active, participating members of their local communities.
Why Citizenship Services Are A Good Idea
Before I became a San Diego immigration attorney, I was involved with grassroots politics. I directed several voter registration drives throughout Southern California.
Midway through my first venture, I realized voter registration was not sufficient.
As I knocked on door after door, I learned many immigrant households with new U.S. citizens had other residents who still lawful permanent residents. At the same time I tried to persuade the new citizens to become acquainted with the electoral process, I sensed a reluctance among the other family members to become active participants in civic affairs.
I decided to combine citizenship information in all future voter registration drives.
For many of the immigrants, there was limited importance placed on taking the next step, a hesitation to become U.S. citizens. This was due, in part, to lack of knowledge about the citizenship process and the full benefits of active citizenship.
Voting was high on my list of citizenship benefits. I tried to convey an appreciation that in our country, “one person, one vote” has special meaning.
American politics needs the infusion of voters who have lived the immigration experience.
Moreover, many immigrants, even after becoming a full-fledged citizen, do not fully assert themselves in their local communities. Although they no longer have to remain in the shadows, they do fully take advantage of their new sunlight.
In my view, immigrant contributions are essential if this society is ever going to truly reach its true potential.
As more and more immigrants join the ranks of active civic participants, our society, and our world, would benefit not just now, but far into the future, and for yet unborn children, here and abroad.
The USCIS Citizenship Resource Center
Although you are strongly encouraged to visit the USCIS Citizenship Resource Center on your own, here is a quick outline of its programs. Most of the sections are self-explanatory. The sections are divided into three categories.
The first section, named “For Immigrants,” covers the following topics:
- LEARN ABOUT NATURALIZATION
- APPLY FOR CITIZENSHIP
- STUDY FOR THE TEST
- FREE INFORMATION SESSIONS
- FIND A CITIZENSHIP CLASS
- CITIZENSHIP RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
In addition, the USCIS website has set up sections for teachers and community organizations.
The section for teachers includes a variety of classroom materials, items, books, lesson plans, and outside resources are available. The goal is to provide better tools for those who teach immigrants about citizenship and related topics.
For community organizations, the USCIS site offers grant programs and technical assistance to help develop educational materials, English as a Second Language (ESL), and civics resources to help immigrants through the process of becoming full-fledged citizens.
Going Forward – Citizenship And Naturalization
Having served as a naturalization lawyer for many immigrants, I find the creation of the Citizenship Resource Center a positive step forward.
Given the tremendous amount of anti-immigration pressures today, I’m a bit surprised by the development of this website.
As part of its services, information is provided in Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. In addition, a link is provided to find the closest citizenship classes for immigrants studying to become naturalized.
In my view, this is a win-win situation for immigrants and our government.
Hopefully, immigrants and the immigration community will fully utilize this site to assist immigrants make the transition to U.S. citizens.
By Carlos Batara, Immigration Law, Policy, And Politics