From Napa Valley Register: Greater Level of Citizenship Will Make Napa a Better Place

April 27, 2013 8:54 pm • Editorial Board •

Why go from green card to citizen? What is the appeal of U.S. citizenship to a legal immigrant permanently living within Napa County?

Many legal immigrants remain unaware of the benefits.

A bold new effort announced last week, the One Napa Valley Initiative, seeks to educate the valley’s 9,000 legal immigrant residents to the advantages U.S. citizenship offers and also assist their citizenship applications.

It is a valuable effort that may well complement an on-going shift in national immigration policy.

In comparison to green card holders, U.S. citizens have greater earning potential and higher family incomes while their children on average go further in school, according to the Napa Valley Community Foundation.

A community with a high percentage of U.S. citizenship statistically also has a stronger economy, according to that data.

Citizenship helps to unite families. The timetable to emigrate a foreign spouse of a U.S. citizen into this country, for example, is much shorter than the wait and red tape involved in emigrating a green card holder’s wife or husband.

Anecdotal evidence locally — much of which was gathered through the community foundation’s outreach throughout the last year — would also suggest that legal immigrants who become U.S. citizens are more invested in their community and more likely to be involved in its future.

But becoming a citizen in this country is not easy — nor should it be.

It is expensive, arduous and requires, among other things, basic English-speaking ability.

Napa County lacks adequate resources to facilitate this process for its 9,000 legal immigrants. The One Napa Valley effort hopes to fill in those gaps and help those with the desire to become U.S. citizens work toward that goal.

That means guiding applicants through the paperwork. It means assisting them with the fees and the financial costs involved. And it means providing them the necessary tools — like English proficiency — to ensure their application is successful.

Legal immigrants who have a true desire to become United States citizens deserve every opportunity to explore that process. Lowering the barriers that may have previously prevented those efforts deserves universal support.

They live here. They work here. They support our economy. If they want to become citizens, we should do everything we can to support them. It will benefit all of us.

We are a country of immigrants and should applaud those who passionately want to become Americans.

The One Napa Valley Initiative is investing $1 million over the next three years to aid that journey. Much of that money will be dedicated to underfunded, undermanned nonprofits already immersed in this valuable work throughout the valley, such as Puertas Abiertas.

But not all of that $1 million is in hand. Fundraising continues, and the foundation is accepting donations through its website at napavalleycf.org.

It is a worthy cause capable of making a lasting positive impact in the Napa Valley, where answers on how best to embrace our diversity should always be welcome.

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