PATH TO CITIZENSHIP—Tom Gogola
Among entries on a long list of the $2.4 million in 2014 Napa Valley Community Foundation grants, one figure stands out: a $295,000 grant for a Napa County citizenship program established by the foundation.
“This is the largest discretionary grant we made this year,” says Terence Mulligan, president of the foundation.
The grant will help 2,000 legal permanent residents in Napa County apply for citizenship.
The foundation commissioned a study in 2012 from the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., which reported that immigration to Napa County had sharply dropped in recent years.
The report found that that 24 percent of Napa County residents were born outside the country (California as a whole is 27 percent), and that the 9,000 legal permanent residents added about $1 billion to the annual economy.
There is an influx of Filipino immigrants to American Canyon, the reported noted, but Mexicans remain the dominant immigrant group, and the backbone of the ag economy. Seventy percent of that workforce comes from Mexico.
The Migration Policy Institute found that Napa County Latino men are overrepresented in the workforce, which is to say that unemployment rates are low among working age Mexican men.
Those immigrants have tried to step up the economic ladder only to find the citizenship ceiling. The study found that “many immigrants in Napa County are eligible to become citizens, but they haven’t done so nearly as frequently as their peers around the state.”
Enter the citizenship initiative. Last year the foundation distributed approximately $285,000 for this same purpose, says Mulligan.
Mulligan says in its first year the program has helped more than 500 residents with legal assistance or classroom help. One hundred and sixty-five people have submitted citizenship applications.
“Sixty-five people have actually become U.S. citizens,” he says. —Tom Gogola