From Los Angeles Times: Obama administration is starting in L.A. to help immigrants become citizens

January 29, 2016 Sarah D. Wire 


The meeting is part of a multi-city tour by the White House’s Task Force on New Americans, which the administration previewed in a call with reporters Thursday.

Senior Deputy Director in the White House Office of Public Engagement Julie Chavez Rodriguez said Friday’s meeting will allow federal officials and members of Garcetti’s staff to coordinate with local leaders in business, nonprofit and community organizations.

In recent years California has moved repeatedly to provide rights, benefits and protections to immigrants in the country illegally, including in-state tuition, driver’s licenses, rules to limit deportations and state-funded healthcare for children.

Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose have signed on to participate in the task force, as have cities in 25 other states.

Rodriguez praised several California efforts, including the partnership between U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Los Angeles Public Library system to create “citizenship corners” at every branch and hold citizenship classes, increased funding for citizenship and naturalization services by the Napa Valley Community Foundation, and targeting of individuals eligible for naturalization and connecting them with resources in San Francisco.

Garcetti said Step Forward LA, a program created in 2015 that helps people determine whether they are eligible to become citizens and prepares them for the citizenship test, has helped 45,000 people.

He said there are an estimated 350,000 legal permanent residents in Los Angeles alone who are eligible to apply for citizenship but haven’t. In the greater area, the number soars to 750,000.

“This isn’t an abstraction for us. It isn’t an abstraction for me,” Garcetti said.

Joining the White House’s effort is former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Fernando Valenzuela, who became a U.S. citizen in July. He said he wants people to know there are resources available to assist people starting the process and to help integrate new citizens.

“I am excited to vote in my first presidential election,” he said.

According to Garcetti’s office, attendees of the closed-door meeting will include the mayor, Special Assistant to the President for Immigration Policy Felicia Escobar, Chief of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs Linda Lopez, and USC Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration Director Manuel Pastor.

Speakers include members of the National Assn. of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, Refugee Forum of Los Angeles, California Endowment, Univision, Asian Americans Advancing Justice of Los Angeles, and the Youth Policy Institute.

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