As we saw in the most recent election, the mobilization of an informed, minority electorate will bring light to the issues that are truly affecting our communities, and for many, it all begins with the naturalization process.
There are currently more than 10,000 residents in Marin County that are eligible to apply for citizenship and the Marin New Americans Campaign aims to simplify this process for legal permanent residents who wish to become U.S. Citizens.
The Marin New Americans Campaign is a collaboration between Canal Alliance (the county side leader), Marin County Free Library, North Marin Community Services, San Rafael Public Library, and Family and Children’s Law Center. Launched on September 17th, 2018 or Citizenship Day, this team has been working to organize quarterly Naturalization Workshops across the county to provide prospective applicants with the resources that they need to become U.S. citizens.
There are many hurdles to the naturalization process, including the $725 application fee, which is up almost $100 from 2017. If eligible, volunteers will walk clients through the fee waiver application to help cover a portion or all of the cost based on their income and financial situation.
After that, clients are paired with pro-bono attorneys and legal professionals to complete the application process. Interpretation is available for all clients and handfuls of other volunteers are on hand throughout the day to help address special circumstances or specific questions related to the application.
The hurdles don’t end once the application is in the mail and clients are encouraged to enroll in test prep courses as well as interview prep courses to help give them the best chance possible of becoming U.S. citizens. These classes are offered on an ongoing basis through Canal Alliance with a sliding scale fee and are taught by volunteers dedicated empowering new Americans.
The current wait time from application to naturalization is approximately two years according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, so time is of the essence for those who wish to become U.S. Citizens and exercise their right to vote in the 2020 election.
According to Viridiana Acosta-Ramirez, Civic Engagement Manager at Canal Alliance, after the first Workshop in September, prospective clients began signing up immediately for the December 1st workshop at Bahia Vista Elementary School. At the encouragement of past participants, friends, family, and colleagues quickly filled the list.