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Encouraging Green Card Holders to Become Citizens

Yesterday, September 17th, was Citizenship Day in the United States. Also known as Constitution Day, it celebrates the day our founding fathers signed the Constitution in 1787 in Philadelphia. Around the country, thousands of legal permanent residents became citizens. Here in Cleveland, the radio station WCPN ran a lovely story about one such naturalization ceremony that took place at the Federal Reserve Bank where 40 immigrants became US citizens. As the story notes, becoming a citizen opens many doors for immigrants. WCPN quoted one recent college graduate at the ceremony who said "The majority of jobs that I was looking for within public health, they required for me to be a U.S. citizen, so this….it just happens to open a new door and much more possibilities for me!”. 

The Southern California Radio Station KPCC reported that Los Angeles is joining cities like Chicago and New York City in an initiative to encourage green card holders (aka legal permanent residents) to become citizens. KPCC cited studies that show naturalized citizens earn 8 to 11 percent more than green card holders because citizens can access better paying jobs in competitive industries more easily than their permanent resident counterparts. This increase of wages would positively contribute to the wider economy.  KPCC noted, "report with the University of Southern California and The National Partnership for New Americans that found if half of those eligible sought citizenship, as much as $3 billion could flow to the L.A. economy over 10 years." 

However, the $680 filing fee for naturalization prohibits many would be citizens from even applying. By joining the "Cities for Citizenship" project, Los Angeles is hoping to encourage the nearly 400,000 legal permanent residents in the city to become citizens. The project started in New York City and Chicago and is backed by $1 billion in funding from Citigroup. The group holds citizenship drives throughout the community and reaches out to employers in the healthcare, technology, and hospitality industries to educated them on the benefits of citizenship. Citigroup is certain that encouraging immigrants to become citizens will have "direct economic benefits".

Cleveland should follow in these cities steps and encourage green card holders to become citizens. It's a win-win situation for both legal permanent residents and the larger economy.

"Oaths, Smiles, Tears, And Hopes: America Gains 40 New Citizens". 90.3 WCPN Ideastream. http://www.ideastream.org/news/feature/oaths-smiles-tears-and-hopes-america-gains-40-new-citizens

"LA joins NYC, Chicago in push to naturalize permanent residents". KPCC Southern California Public Radio.  http://www.scpr.org/blogs/multiamerican/2014/09/17/17304/la-joins-nyc-chicago-in-push-to-naturalize-permane/

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