Celebrating 10 Years of New Citizens
This month we celebrated a very special milestone — ten years of advancing citizenship in Napa Valley. It’s hard to imagine now, but ten years ago, no one knew there was a significant citizenship gap in our community.
In 2012, we released a study on the economic and fiscal impact of immigration in Napa Valley. Among the study’s key findings? Only 30% of our community’s immigrants had obtained US citizenship, while 37% of their peers around the state had taken the oath. Like a tulip bulb planted on a long-ago autumn morning, the citizenship gap sprang forth just in time for Mother’s Day, ten years ago this month.
At the time, we guessed that lower levels of citizenship in the Valley had everything to do with the scarcity of affordable legal services for immigrants. Back then, there was one immigration attorney in private practice and a legal aid nonprofit that did little work in this area. The net result was unaffordable or unavailable services.
We knew that citizenship was correlated to higher family income, higher educational attainment for the children of those who naturalize and more active engagement in community affairs. And because we believe that our community and our democracy are more vibrant when everyone can participate in the decisions we make about our future, we launched the One Napa Valley Initiative (ONVI) to open a pathway to citizenship for our foreign-born neighbors.
To bring our vision to life, we enlisted the expertise of four nonprofit organizations:
With generous support from a dozen initial donors, we committed $1 million to ONVI over a three-year period. Our nonprofit partners agreed to offer free legal help and support services to those seeking citizenship; and we agreed to consider additional funding after the first three years.
The rest, as they say, is history. Our initial pilot was so successful that we’ve continued funding ONVI to this day, and plan to do so moving forward, thanks to a growing roster of givers that now numbers more than 300 strong.
In the last 10 years…
- More than 100,000 people have received information about the benefits and obligations of citizenship.
- 468 volunteers have provided 12,540 hours of assistance to help citizenship candidates complete their applications and prepare for their exams.
- 9,706 people have received legal consultations.
- 860 have enrolled in new ESL for civics/citizenship classes.
- 5,495 have submitted citizenship or other immigration applications to the U.S. government.
- 1,869 have taken the oath and become U.S. citizens!
How can you help? Financial donations at any level will help provide legal aid and other support services to more would-be citizens. Here’s how your gift helps:
- $10,000 sponsors a citizenship application workshop for 30 legal permanent residents to become US citizens.
- $1,000 supports a “Know Your Rights” presentation so that immigrant families can make informed decisions about their safety and rights.
- $500 helps a local dreamer renew their Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status.
- $100 pays for a comprehensive legal assessment to determine eligibility for immigration relief.
- $50 buys educational materials for a student preparing for their citizenship exam.
Do you know someone who needs help becoming a citizen? Contact Immigration Institute of the Bay Area (IIBA) at 707.266.1568 or NapaInfo@iibayarea.org