The NPNA calls for Congress to increase funding for the Citizenship and Integration Grant Program

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Eduardo Flores, Contributor

The National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA), the Coalition for Humane Immigrants Rights (CHIRLA), NALEO Education Fund, UnidosUS, and a total of 64 organizations are requesting Congress to invest in the Citizenship and Integration Grant Program.  

The NPNA announced Aug. 31 that they, along with several organizations, sent a letter to the Chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee, Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, and Sen. Shelley Capito, R-West Virginia, Ranking Member on Homeland Security.  

The letter demands Congress increase the Citizenship and Integration Grant Program funding from $10 million to $100 million as part of the Fiscal Year 2022 Homeland Security Appropriations bill.  

Since 2009, the Citizenship and Integration Grant Program operated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has provided funding for community-based organizations to help immigrants apply for citizenship and study English, U.S. history, and government for test preparation, the main requirement for naturalization.  

On May 17, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services began accepting applications for competitive funding opportunities under the Citizenship and Integration Grant Program. All community organizations must meet the criteria established by the USCIS to qualify for grant funding. 

The program has provided citizenship preparation services to more than 279,000 lawful permanent residents in 39 states and the District of Columbia; however, current funding has only allowed reaching 0.003% of over 9 million immigrants eligible to naturalize. 

“Now is the time to invest in citizenship, as our nation strives for an economic recovery, and as over nine million immigrants are eligible for naturalization but face barriers like high application fees, limited English skills, and a lack of access to legal services,” said NPNA Executive Director Nicole Melaku. 

A press release by the National Partnership for New Americans states that increasing funding to $100 million annually would expand access to citizenship, facilitating social benefits. 

The NPNA also claims that “naturalization makes the U.S. more prosperous, and its economic benefits include higher incomes, employment rates, and an increased likelihood of homeownership by naturalized immigrants.”  

“Access to citizenship provides immigrants with the right to vote, permanent protection against deportation, and the ability to increase their economic opportunities,” said CHIRLA Executive Director Angelica Salas. 

Sen. Murphy, D-Connecticut, and Sen. Capito, R-West Virginia, have not commented on the demand of the organizations. Still, the NPNA says it will continue to advocate for immigrant rights as September is the month of Hispanic Heritage, Welcoming Week, and Citizenship Day under the banner of the “We’re Ready Campaign” and #Naturalize2Millionby2022.  

For more information about the Citizenship and Integration Grant Program visit www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=333614.