A program launched by Napa Valley Community Foundation to help local residents become U.S. citizens will be extended for two additional years.
Foundation President Terence Mulligan said the organization’s additional investment in the One Napa Valley Initiative – expected to be $645,000 between 2015 and 2017 – could enable as many as 220 legal permanent residents, or green card holders, to apply for citizenship each year, while also providing other types of legal services to 250 foreign-born residents of Napa County each year.
Napa Valley Community Foundation (NVCF) is seeking additional donations for the expansion of the citizenship project. NVCF has committed $100,000 from its operating reserves and raised an additional $205,000 to date, leaving $340,000 to be raised to fully pay for the two-year extension of the program.
“With this additional investment, we are doubling down on a highly successful program that’s clearly needed in our community,” Mulligan said.
Since the Foundation’s citizenship project began in the summer of 2013, nearly 1,200 clients have received legal consultations or participated in new English as a Second Language classes, 423 people have submitted applications to become citizens and 286 people have actually become U.S. citizens, he said in a news release.
“Immigration is once again a polarizing, political issue at a national level,” said Mulligan. “But the members of our board of directors, which include Republicans and Democrats and quite a few people in between, all agree that we need to take pragmatic steps under current U.S. law to help our community be more integrated and more cohesive.”
The One Napa Valley Initiative was started on the heels of a 2012 study on the economic and fiscal impact of immigration in Napa County, which was funded by NVCF and conducted by a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, D.C.
That study, the first-of-its kind for the region, underscored the substantial economic contributions made by immigrants in Napa Valley, and also pointed to a significant citizenship gap: 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, Mulligan said.
“There are nearly 9,000 citizenship-eligible Legal Permanent Residents in Napa County. When they naturalize, good things happen for their families, and good things happen for the community at large,” he said.
Citizenship is correlated with higher family income, higher educational attainment for the children of immigrants that naturalize, higher proficiency in English, and more active engagement in community affairs, he said.