New campaign encourages Asian American immigrants to apply for citizenship

Non-profit organization Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles, in partnership with community-based organizations and local government, on Wednesday, April 6, announced new campaign to encourage and boost the number of Asian American immigrants applying for US citizenship.

The campaign, “Endless possibilities. Citizenship Now!” is a coordinated effort of more than 10 organizations, government agencies, and offices of elected officials.

“The United States was founded by immigrants and continues to thrive because of the contributions of immigrants,” Stewart Kwoh, president and executive director of Advancing Justice – LA, said in a statement. “For many Asian Americans, the risk of leaving their native countries in pursuit of better opportunities outweighed all their fears of the unknown.”

Through the campaign, those seeking citizenship assistance or legal services are encouraged to call the Advancing Justice – LA hotline, which is staffed by members of the Asian Language Legal Intake Project (ALLIP). The project offers assistance in seven languages: English, Tagalog, Mandarin/Cantonese, Khmer, Korean, Thai and Vietnamese. Calls are then triaged to community-based partners who will then provide individuals with direct legal assistance.

Nasim Khansari, citizenship project director at Advancing Justice – LA, said the campaign also provides English language classes for individuals who may require this type of assistance, as well as a fee waiver, which 65 percent of the organization’s clients receive.

At the announcement of the campaign, Rep. Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park) cited that among benefits of becoming citizens include that many educational scholarships are available only to citizens, and that permanent residents only receive half of the social security benefits received by citizens.

“There is nothing to lose and everything to gain by becoming a US citizen. You can protect yourself, protect your family, have a better life, and you can vote. What better thing can there be?” Chu said.

In Los Angeles County, among the more than 300,000 Asian American and Pacific Islander immigrant LPRs, nationals from the Philippines were the largest ethnic group between 2000 to 2010.

Among clients Advancing Justice – LA has helped and continues to assist is Rebeck Sadangsal, a Filipino-American lawful permanent resident (LPR) currently applying for naturalization. Sadangsal told media that one factor motivating him to apply for citizenship is so he can vote. He arrived in the United States in 1992, became an LPR in 2007 and came to Advancing Justice – LA in May 2014 for assistance in the naturalization process.

At the time, Sadangsal and his wife were undergoing financial difficulties, but their application for a fee waiver was rejected multiple times, as their income was slightly above the federal poverty level.

“We had no choice but to delay filing our applications because the cost of two applications was $1,360. It was a big burden on our family and children. Luckily, Advancing Justice did not give up on us,” he said.

Sadangsal said he and his wife eventually received waivers with the help of Advancing Justice – LA, and shared that they underwent biometrics last week.

The campaign’s first partnership event is a free citizenship workshop that takes place Sunday, April 10, at the Long Beach Convention Center.

Filipinos interested in receiving citizenship assistance or legal services are encouraged to call the Tagalog hotline at (855) 300-2552. (Agnes Constante/AJPress)

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