By Mo Kantner, Immigration Impact
As communities across the United States came together this past weekend to commemorate and reflect upon our country’s independence, the holiday holds special significance for one group in particular: newly sworn-in citizens.
Immigrants who are lucky enough to overcome the laborious and bureaucratic road to becoming U.S. citizens often do so with the support of family and friends. But it’s increasingly important that cities and counties step up to help make the process easier and more accessible. Immigrants who become naturalized citizens tend to have access to better opportunities, earning, on average, 8% more in lifetime income than their non-naturalized peers. Naturalized citizens aren’t tied to one employer via sponsorship and can pursue more career opportunities. This ensures greater mobility—with the local community reaping the benefits.
Fortunately, some communities are stepping up in a big way. In cities like Tulsa, Oklahoma, the New Tulsans Initiative aims to provide resources for neighbors to become citizens. In 2019, the city of Tulsa partnered with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to host naturalization ceremonies so that new citizens didn’t have to travel over 100 miles to Oklahoma City to be sworn in. In Seattle, the New Citizen Campaign provides residents with financial assistance to offset filing fees, legal assistance throughout the citizenship application process, and workshops and clinics to help prepare newcomers for the process.
These naturalization initiatives are particularly timely considering last month was Immigrant Heritage Month. Many communities across the country—including some that one might not suspect—took a moment in June to celebrate the cultural, social, and economic contributions of our immigrant neighbors.
In communities like Columbus, Ohio the City Council hosted a naturalization ceremony to highlight the city’s commitment to welcoming new neighbors. The city of Boulder, Colorado dedicated funding to uplift local artwork, events, and celebrations honoring the city’s immigrant heritage. And in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Office of Immigrant Affairs rebranded their celebration as Looking Back to Move Forward, taking this month to reflect on what they’ve lost, gained, and learned over the past few years. They also launched Immigrant Business Week to highlight and support their local immigrant-owned small businesses, giving visibility to the diversity of the local business community.
While movement around immigration reform at the federal level continues to be extremely challenging, local communities across the country continue to forge forward with innovative programs to support their immigrant neighbors. This Independence Day, that’s one thing we can all feel patriotic about.