A program launched by Napa Valley Community Foundation (NVCF) to help local residents become US Citizens will be expanded to assist more people, and extended for two additional years. NVCF President Terence Mulligan said the Foundation'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 US Citizenship each year, while also providing other important types of legal services to 250 foreign-born residents of Napa County each year.
"What we've accomplished in partnership with 130 donors and five nonprofit partners in the last two years is really remarkable," said Mulligan. "With this additional investment, we are doubling down on a highly successful program that's clearly needed in our community." Since the Foundation's citizenship project began in the summer of 2013, more than 31,000 residents have been reached with information about the benefits and requirements of citizenship; nearly 1,200 clients have received legal consultations or participated in new English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, a number that represents more than 10 percent of the County's population of Legal Permanent Residents; 423 people have submitted applications to become citizens; and 286 people have actually become US Citizens.
"Immigration is once again a polarizing, political issue at a national level," added 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 US law to help our community be more integrated and more cohesive."
The One Napa Valley Initiative (ONVI) 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, DC. 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.
"Only 30 percent of Napa County's foreign-born population have become citizens versus 37 percent in California overall," said NVCF President Terence Mulligan, noting that the scarcity of legally-based immigration services in Napa County helped explain the gap. "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."
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, Mulligan continued, noting that growth in family income can also be a big boost to the local economy.
The positive impact of the Foundation's citizenship project has been noticed both locally and nationally. On May 5, Mulligan met with the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Department and White House staff in Washington, DC to talk about the One Napa Valley Initiative. He spoke about the project at the Aspen Institute in March, and will keynote the annual conference of the Association of Fundraising Professionals Yosemite Chapter on September 18 in Modesto, California.
Napa Valley Community Foundation is actively 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-fund the two-year extension of the program.