LOS ANGELES, CA — In celebration of National Citizenship Day on September 17, Asian Americans Advancing Justice (Advancing Justice) affiliates throughout the U.S. hosted citizenship clinics to promote the many benefits of citizenship, including a critical benefit that has caused many long-time green card holders to choose to naturalize: the upcoming presidential election.
Citizenship advocates have seen wait and processing times for citizenship applications increase and are urging that any lawful permanent residents seeking to vote in the 2020 presidential election submit their application for naturalization before September 2019 ends.
“Asian Americans are the fastest-growing ethnic population in the United States. We are a diverse community with diverse immigration statuses,” said Christine Chen, Citizenship Project Director at Advancing Justice-LA. “It’s critical that we assist as many community members as possible to help reach their citizenship goals – and in particular this month – so they can vote in next year’s presidential election.”
Asian Americans are a quickly developing voter bloc: 30% of eligible immigrant voters nationally are of Asian descent. Research has indicated that as political candidates and parties recognize the importance of the Asian American voting bloc and increase voter registration among the community, promote Asian American candidates, and outreach to increase civic education, the power of the Asian American vote stands only to grow.
With the number of registered voters growing by nearly 1 million every presidential election, Asian Americans are poised to continue to grow in influence and make or break close elections in pivotal battleground states. Asian Americans are said to have a pivotal role in deciding the Democratic presidential nominee and the congressional majority in 2020.
“Nearly 1/3 of our clients express that being American and wanting to vote is the reason they’ve decided to apply for U.S. Citizenship. For some of these community members, this comes after 10, 20, 30 years with their green card and many feel like now, more than ever, this step is crucial for them and their families,” said Angelica Peña, Immigration Program Administration Director at Advancing Justice-LA. “We are truly in awe of these clients, who already work in and serve their communities – and are taking on a daunting task so that they can be more civically engaged.”
The Pan Asian Citizenship events provided free legal and application services in more than seven Asian languages, assisted nearly 200 individuals seeking U.S. citizenship each spring and fall. Over 100 volunteers, including dvancing ustice staff, community partners, attorneys and Department of Justice (DOJ) accredited staff, trained to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) standards, provided eligibility screenings, guidance on securing fee waivers for those eligible, and legal assistance to those applying for citizenship.
“Each year, Advancing Justice | AAJC supports the eight organizations we work with as part of the New Americans Campaign to assist hundreds of individuals in the D.C. metropolitan area to obtain citizenship through our naturalization clinics,” said Marita Etcubañez, Director of Strategic Initiatives for Advancing Justice | AAJC. “We also assist people to apply for fee waivers or reduced fees, resulting in significant savings for applicants. Now more than ever, it is important for immigrants to get advice from experienced immigration attorneys, and we are committed to providing high-quality legal assistance to help people navigate the naturalization process and access their full rights as U.S. citizens.”
Free citizenship services are still available in Orange County, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Washington, D.C. and across the country throughout the year. Required appointments can be scheduled by calling the toll-free helplines at (888) 349-9695 for English or (855) 300-2552 for Tagalog.
Helpline staff operate between 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. For voicemail messages, callers are encouraged to leave their name and contact information. Calls will be returned within one business day.