26 Jan

Resolve to Become a U.S. Citizen in 2016

NAC-BenefitsofCitizenship_final Courtesy of the New Americans Campaign 

The New Year is a time to set goals to improve yourself and your quality of life. There’s an important opportunity for lawful permanent residents to do just that; through U.S. citizenship. Becoming a citizen opens the door to many new opportunities that were previously unavailable to green card holders. This New Year resolve to become a U.S. citizen and consider these benefits:

1. The Right to Vote

LPRs can vote in local and state elections, but they cannot cast a ballot in federal elections. You live, work and pay taxes in the U.S., and voting in federal elections for leaders who best represent you, your family and your community is important. The earlier
in the year you apply for citizenship, the more likely you are to complete the process in time to register to vote in the 2016 presidential election.

2. Citizenship for your children

Children under the age of 18 who are lawful permanent residents automatically become citizens when their parents naturalize. Since individuals cannot apply to naturalize until they turn 18, this type of derivative citizenship is a gift from parents to children.

3. Family reunification

Family members can become separated for long periods of time through the immigration process. LPRs can file petitions only for their spouses, minor children and unmarried adult sons and daughters. U.S. citizens can petition for additional family members such as parents, siblings and married adult sons and daughters.

4. Eligibility for government jobs

Some jobs are available only to U.S. citizens, such as those in the federal government. Additionally, naturalized citizens on average do better economically than noncitizens. As a group they earn between 50 and 70 percent more than noncitizens, have higher employment rates and are less likely to live below the poverty line. New citizens could also see individual earnings increases of 8 to 11 percent, directly tied to more job preparation, better employment matches and a greater ability to switch jobs.

6. Freedom to travel

LPRs’ travel time during a given year is restricted. U.S. citizens have the freedom to travel without time constraints or restrictions. They also have the opportunity to seek the help and protection of U.S. embassies and consulates abroad in the event of a personal crisis or civil unrest. This ease of travel opens the door for more opportunities to visit family members abroad, travel abroad for longer periods of time and come to and from the U.S. with much greater ease.

6. Protection from deportation

Becoming a U.S. citizen protects you and your children from deportation. As a lawful permanent resident, certain criminal convictions could make you deportable, and some actions put LPRs at risk for permanent consequences such as deportation.

Many immigrants feel a strong connection to their country of origin. But U.S. citizenship does not mean losing your heritage. In fact, many countries even allow dual citizenship so that you can maintain your status both in your birth country and in the U.S.

New Americans Campaign partners across the country are helping LPRs achieve their dream of citizenship. If you’ve resolved to become a U.S. citizen in 2016, schedule an appointment with one of our partners or attend a workshop for help to complete your application.

 

23 Nov

Street Stories Oakland Article : APILO OAKLAND OFFICE

Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach – Oakland Office

494830c78e5aae79312900f6c3fcec79Most people find out about the APILO’s services by word of mouth, so if you’re reading this and know someone who could benefit from APILO, please spread the word. Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, or APILO, provides legal assistance to members of the Asian and Pacific Islander community in the Bay Area. One block down from the Tribune Tower, the APILO Oakland office provides both pro bono law services and acts as a network to connect people with social services as well as educational and empowerment workshops. The outreach program focuses on helping with legal issues of immigration status, domestic violence, elder law, estate planning as well as working with victims of human trafficking. With a staff of about 30 people, 25 of whom are attorney and most of whom are people of color, the APILO can provide legal services to a community respecting wide range of languages and cultural practices.

Its holistic approach to serving the Asian and Pacific Islander community has proved enormously successful over the past 40 years since its establishment in 1975 by Dean Ito Taylor. Taylor began the API Legal Outreach as a small clinic in San Francisco’s Japantown. At the time, the clinic focused on providing legal aid to victims of domestic violence, however the agency continues to grow to meet the changing needs of the Asian and Pacific Islander communities.

Serving this community poses the unique challenge of being accessible to wide variety of languages. As Raheel Hayat, the supervising attorney in the Oakland office, explained to me there are 26 different API communities in the Bay Area alone. To meet this challenge, the East Bay office staff includes speakers of Cantonese and Mandarin, Tagalog, Hindi and Urdu, Vietnamese, Spanish and Korean. You can call ((415) 567-6255) or visit their website. They also offer a monthly in house clinic where volunteer attorneys come in and provide legal assistance to those who attend the workshop under supervision of the APILO full time attorneys. This happens every 3rd Wednesday of the month from 6 to 9pm.

The APILO also puts on events with the Anti-Displacement Coalition working to secure tenant rights in an increasingly gentrifying Oakland. APILO is the lead collaborative of the East Bay naturalization collaborative, putting on 8 to 10 workshops per year in cities across the East Bay. In these workshops, LPRs (legal permanent residents) and green card holders can come and apply for citizenship without a lawyer fee.  The naturalization collaborative offers aid to all seeking naturalization, not just those within the Asian and Pacific Islander community.

In offering legal immigration help to communities of color, Hayat and his colleagues hope to empower these communities to achieve a better quality of life and increase their political organization. This is a process getting undocumented Oakland residents “out of the shadows.” Although the appeals court ruled against Obama’s immigration plan, the original DACA benefits are still available to many undocumented immigrants. Benefits include access to student loans, work permits and healthcare. Hayat explains that even though DACA does not include the right to vote, DACA will help immigrant communities organize and develop and thus have more say in local and national governments.

Applying for DACA can also open doors to new ways of civic engagement, thus facilitating activism within API communities. “Unless you come out and participate, people think you’re content” Hayat says, and point to the example of former mayor of Oakland Jean Quan, the city’s first Chinese-American mayor. If you ask people from Chinatown, “most people would say that she was a horrible mayor for the Chinese community and for the API community” and Haya explains by asking that as a politician, why would Quan work to serve a community that is not “knocking on [her] door?”

Access to work permits, student loans and healthcare through DACA will help communities grow and organize to have more say in our trying American democracy. For many, API Legal Outreach is the first step. There is a huge DACA-eligible population who have yet to apply. Many of the undocumented immigrants in the Pacific Islander and Asian community are not reaching out to API Legal Outreach. Hayat point to three possible reasons for this: misinformation, fear, and inaccessibility. Because it is a fairly recent policy (implemented in 2012) DACA is a foreign concept that many people are not aware of. Another factor which deters people from seeking these services is fear of possible negative repercussions they would face in seeking legal aid about their residency status. Hayat points to Donald Trump’s inflammatory claims that he plans to deport 11 million people out of the United States if elected president. An abundance of misinformation surrounding immigration and the naturalization process among people both documented and undocumented leads to fear about migrant status. It also leaves the door open for exploitative labor practices by employers who pay undocumented immigrants and their children well below the minimum wage. Often times, because the victims of these situations do not reach out for legal aid, abusive employers never face legal repercussions.

Because of its label as the “model minority,” the Asian and Pacific Islander community is often left out of discourse about marginalized minorities in the United States. Lumping a diverse community into one immaginary ethnic group of “Asian,” this label of “model minority” gives people the impression that everything is going well with the API community: they are not marginalized and therefore not in need of advocacy work and aid. This label ignores the historic and current systematic exclusion of Asian and Pacific Islander immigrant groups in the US. In aiding the API communities in Oakland, and in the greater Bay Area and United States, advocates work to counteract the label in the face of pressing issues which challenge the diverse API community. The Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach organization is on the front lines of raising awareness about this community while providing immediate legal assistance.

It takes time to become established in a community to the point where people feel comfortable seeking legal advice about such sensitive subject as their residency status, domestic abuse and tenant rights. With their holistic approach, APILO provides legal aid and links the API community to educational, health and employment resources including the Asian American Bar Association, and theBurmese Refugee Family Network.

06 Nov

Press coverage for our Naturalization and DACA Workshop in Oakland

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Press coverage for our Naturalization and DACA Workshop in Oakland

Our Naturalization and DACA Workshop in Oakland was covered by a number of media outlets, and discussed how important the work is to the community as well as the individual stories and backgrounds of the clients that we assisted.

This is another example of the importance of helping these communities in obtaining guidance and assistance.

Here is a synopsis of three different outlets and highlights from their stories.  

In ChicoEr News, Malaika Fraley highlights the two October workshops aimed to help documented immigrants apply for citizenship and students of at least 15 years of age apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Status. Aside from the workshop being free to the public, Oakland residents and students attending school in Oakland have the opportunity to get the $465 fee waived. Manzi-Pumar, an immigrant from Venezuela, has gained immense opportunity from applying for DACA Status. She is now working for a non profit and able to visit her family in her home country, something she hasn’t been able to do for over a decade.

The Catholic Voice’s coverage highlighted the diverse stories of those who attended.

Up to 300 people are expected at the citizenship workshop from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, when volunteers will help those who are eligible to apply for citizenship and fill out paperwork. It’s open to all East Bay residents who are green card holders and have been U.S. residents for at least five years, or three years if they obtained residency through marriage.

The article introduced the Villa-Real family.JoJo and his wife, Eloisa, have 4 children, 3 of whom are seeking a path to gain their US citizenship (the fourth already has citizenship). At our October 14 event, they learned that they qualify for citizenship and subsequently are eligible for a scholarship from the armed forces and able to attend a school with an ROTC program. There were over 200 volunteers helping attendees move through the stations. Additionally, there were over 12 languages represented among the volunteers, which further helped facilitate the process. Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, was in attendance and welcomed all those attending the workshop with open arms and thanked the volunteers for their assistance.

In the Mercury News’ summary we learn of three California residents who have each spent over a decade in the United States. The workshop hosted by The Diocese of Oakland, Catholic Charities of the East Bay, the Oakland DACA/DAPA Project and the East Bay Naturalization Collaborative allowed these people to get one step closer to citizenship. At the workshop volunteers were available to help attendees through the process and lawyers were on hand to offer legal advice.

To find out more about our Naturalization and DACA Workshop in Oakland, visit our home page or contact us.

01 Mar

Apply For Citizenship Before May 2nd!

Recently, USCIS announced changes to the N400 form.

About 60 days from now, the form will become twice as long with the addition of questions on moral character.

The good news is that you can still use the older – and simpler – form in the next 60 days.

If you’ve been putting off becoming a citizen, this is the time to finally take that step – new citizens see up to a 10% increase in wages in their first decade as citizens, have a broader array of jobs available to them, can get a U.S. passport and can pass citizenship to their children under 18.

We’re ready to provide you help with the process. Here in the East Bay (Alameda and Contra Costa Counties), the East Bay Naturalization Collaborative is holding a citizenship workshop in the city of Berkeley on March 15, 2014. If you are not from the East Bay, you can find a citizenship workshop near you, by visiting http://newamericanscampaign.org/our-impact/events/calendar.

At these workshops, you will receive free legal advice regarding your citizenship status, apply for citizenship fee waivers, meet with experts to discuss your concerns and take that all-important first step towards becoming a citizen.

We’ll make it easy, simple and affordable.  Over the last two years, the New Americans Campaign has helped more than 80,000 people complete their naturalization application nationwide — and saved them over $67 million in legal fees and fee waivers.

In the East Bay, we’ve already helped over 1,700 of your neighbors get citizenship.

But it’s not just the money you’ll save today. New Americans stand to gain many benefits – both financial and personal – once they become citizens.

A newly naturalized worker in California stands to earn over $3,000 more in his lifetime than one who did not naturalize – with most of that increase coming within a decade after becoming a citizen.

The benefits of citizenship are immediate and tangible.

There’s no better time than now to take that step – at our event on March 15, 2014, our staff and legal experts can help you save money and time on your citizenship application.

There’s no better time to apply for citizenship than in the next 60 days – the form is shorter than it will be, we can save you time and money in the process, and there’s an event in your neighborhood on March 15, 2014.

We’re ready to help, stop by our event in Berkeley, CA.