A year ago we released a first-of-its-kind study on the economic and fiscal impact of immigration in Napa County. We spent the next six months discussing the key findings of the study with more than 1,500 local residents, in dozens of public and private meetings up and down the Valley.
Some important opportunities and challenges emerged from our study and these discussions, including:
- We have a citizenship gap in Napa County. Many immigrants here are eligible to become citizens, but they haven't done so nearly as frequently as their peers around the state (30 percent of Napa County's foreign-born population have become citizens versus 37 percent in California overall).
- This gap is associated with other disparities. The educational and economic outcomes of immigrant families and native-born families are vastly different; and these differences work at cross-purposes to building a more vibrant, sustainable and cohesive community.
- Creating more citizens will be good for all. 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.
Based on the study and input from local residents, we are launching the One Napa Valley Initiative (ONVI).
ONVI's first grants will be to a selected group of nonprofits that will build a local naturalization infrastructure that helps eligible immigrants become citizens, and thus participate more fully in economic and civic life.
Metro areas like San Francisco and Oakland have robust networks of nonprofits that offer affordable naturalization services provided by legal experts, but we don't have this kind of network in Napa County.
Our study says there are nearly 8,900 immigrants here that are eligible to take the next step and become citizens (click here for an interactive map of where citizenship eligibles reside in Napa County).
These immigrants live here lawfully as Legal Permanent Residents (or Green Card holders), but the absence of legally-based and affordable naturalization services effectively puts citizenship beyond their reach.
By investing in naturalization services, we hope to create more financial stability for families; better educational outcomes for children; a stronger local economy; and a more vibrant community.
Our aspirations emanate from our values, but are also supported by research which demonstrates:
- Immigrants that become citizens can see their earnings rise 10 percent or more. We know there is a $30,000 gap in household income between Latino immigrants and native-born Anglos. If the One Napa Valley Initiative can naturalize 2,000 people in the next three years (the number it would take to bring Napa County to parity with statewide citizenship rates), we could see $10 million or more in additional income for local families, which would have positive ripple effects throughout the broader local economy.
- When parents become citizens, children are more likely to graduate high school and attend a four-year college. We know most of the Latino children in our public schools are the sons and daughters of immigrants. We also understand that there is a significant, if narrowing, achievement gap in our public schools: The number of Latino kids that graduate our public high schools ready to attend a 4-year college or university lags far behind the number of Anglo kids--22 percent versus 42 percent. Closing this divide will benefit these young people, and build a stronger future workforce for Napa County.
The increased likelihood of Congress taking up immigration reform this year makes it even more important for us, and others, to work on building out a local naturalization infrastructure, because there may be thousands of additional people who soon become eligible to apply for citizenship.
Our nonprofit partners for this first phase of naturalization are:
These agencies will work together to:
- Conduct outreach and education among immigrants on the benefits of citizenship
- Offer low-cost application assistance and related legal immigration services to residents that want to naturalize
- Assist immigrants with citizenship interview and exam preparation, including civics and English-for-naturalization classes.
By investing in naturalization services, we hope there will be other long-term, positive impacts for Napa County, including:
- Less fear among immigrant households and greater willingness to fully engage in community life
- More opportunities for Anglos and Latinos to establish personal connections
- Active encouragement by local governments for immigrants to become more involved in civic affairs
- More diversity in leadership positions in our Valley.
We look forward to bringing you periodic progress reports on ONVI.
If you'd like to make a donation to support the One Napa Valley Initiative, please contact Terence Mulligan at Terence@napavalleycf.org.
In closing, we hope our investments help the whole community become more connected and more integrated, so we see ourselves and each other as part of One Napa Valley.
Terence Mulligan & Marla Tofle