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Create Government Offices to Assist the Naturalization Process

Arizona and the Nation: A Failing State Versus Positive Approaches to Immigrant Integration

As we highlighted two weeks ago, the Arizona legislature and Governor's decisions to pass a punitive, anti-immigrant bill - SB1070 - have unleashed a torrent of condemnations inside and outside of Arizona.  Voices speaking up against the bill have come not only from civil rights organizations, but have also included public safety officials, constitutional legal scholars, and, significantly, Republican leaders and candidates from other states with significant immigrant populations.

RELEASE: Policy recommendations from Corzine panel would put NJ at forefront of immigration reform

JERSEY CITY, NJ — At a press conference this morning, Gov. Jon Corzine unveiled the results of his Blue Ribbon Panel on Immigration Policy, which included recommendations for the establishment of an Office on New Americans to help integrate immigrant families into the state’s culture and work force.  Policy experts at the Progressive States Network (PSN) were quick to praise the panel’s recommendations, which they placed within an emerging trend among state lawmakers to include working immigrant families into plans for shared economic growth.

According to PSN Interim Executive Director Nathan Newman, who authored a comprehensive 50-state analysis of state immigration policy last September, “The story that states are rushing out to punish undocumented immigrants is really a smoke screen. When you look at the facts, you see that more and more states are finding ways to integrate immigrants into a growing workforce and thriving small business community.  States like New Jersey realize that there is a far better economic future in working together than there is in dividing the population against itself.”

Overview

States and local governments can take action to further assist naturalization -- from improving registration procedures at driver licensing offices and other government offices, to assisting in the naturalization process.  Illinois' Office of New Americans has become the leader among the at least 15 states that have offices to tailor services to immigrants and help with naturalization.  

States can create government offices or fund organizations to assist immigrants to successfully complete the process of obtaining U.S. citizenship through naturalization.  A few recent examples include:

  • In February 2008, Washington's Governor Christine Gregoire signed Executive Order 08-01, creating a New Americans Policy Council to promote naturalization, English skills, and public-private partnerships for integration.  The Washington state legislature took the additional step of providing $340,000 in funding to promote community economic development and build the capacity of organizations across the state that provide naturalization assistance to legal permanent residents. 
  • Arizona SB 1096 appropriates funds for English language learners, and Missouri HB 2010 provides funds for naturalization assistance to certain legal immigrants.
  • In fall of 2007, New Jersey created a Blue Ribbon Panel on Immigrant Policy to develop strategies to better integrate immigrants in that state, and New York announced a $6 million initiative to fund nineteen state organizations that help New York immigrants become United States citizens.  Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick's FY 2009 budget proposed increasing funding for that state's Citizenship for New Americans Program from $500,000 to $1.5 million. 

States can also enact refundable tax credits for naturalization expenses:

  • Indiana's  SB 240 would create an Adult Education Tax Credit which would give employers a credit of up to $300 per employee and up to $5,000 per year for payment of an employee's expenses related to adult education programs, including citizenship training.
  • Minnesota's HF 747 would create a specific Citizenship Income Tax Credit.
  • Texas's HB 240 would require school districts to grant students an excused absence from school when appearing at a governmental office to complete paperwork required in connection with the student's application for U.S. citizenship or to take part in a naturalization oath ceremony.  

States can also improve government communication and coordination over programs promoting immigrant integration:

  • Illinois's SB 1746 enacted the Latino Family Commission in 2007, which will advise the Governor and General Assembly, as well as work directly with State agencies to improve and expand existing policies, services, programs, and opportunities for Latino families. In 2008, Illinois approved SB 783 to provide funds for more bilingual personnel in public agencies.

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New PSN Report: The Anti-Immigrant Movement that Failed

Today, the Progressive States Network is releasing a new report: The Anti-Immigrant Movement that Failed: Positive Integration Policies by States Still Far Outweigh Punitive Policies Aimed at New Immigrants.   The Executive Summary is available online, as well as the full report in PDF and HTML format.

State Immigration Project: Policy Options for 2009

Download a copy of the reports in PDF format here.  View the HTML version of the report here.