With the support of prominent elected officials, immigration advocates launched #2MillionBy2022, a Los Angeles campaign that will become a nationwide effort to encourage two million permanent residents to obtain their citizenship by providing financial support and aid with initiating and completing the process.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti joined The Coalition for Humane Immigrants Rights and essential workers unions during a press conference outside City Hall on Tuesday to announce the campaign. The event was also livestreamed to Facebook.
Garcetti said that more than 60% of Los Angeles residents are immigrants or children of immigrants, and the state of California is home to almost 11 million immigrants. Garcetti and other speakers emphasized the vitality of the city’s immigrant populations and the community’s contributions as frontline workers, hospital employees, and family builders that have kept Los Angeles alive the last two years.
“The least this country can do is continue our tradition of saying this is a country where you belong, and here in L.A. this is a city for you to belong. And nothing makes you belong more than becoming a citizen,” Garcetti said. “You shouldn’t be able to become a citizen because you have the money — you should become a citizen because you have the will, the hard work, the dreams.”
Long Beach Mayor and naturalized citizen Robert Garcia stood alongside Garcetti in support of the campaign and to tell his story. Garcia explained the difficulties immigrants and their families face and the importance of their citizenship journey by reflecting on his: Garcia came to the United States at 5-years-old with his family.
“My mom, like a lot of strong immigrant women came to the U.S. She cleaned houses. She was a janitor. She worked in thrift shops, but she worked really, really hard to make sure that we could achieve as much of the American dream as possible,” Garcia said.
Garcia explained that the path to his family’s citizenship sprung from community impact. It wasn’t something that they did alone. “We became Americans because people helped and gave us access to applying for citizenship,” he said.
The “Naturalize 2 million by 2022″ campaign will go on a multi-city tour, including McAllen, San Antonio, Austin, Chicago, Milwaukee, Maryland and New York. Leaders will meet with over 50 refugee and immigrant activism organizations – all with the common goal to restore American democracy by tackling issues like the citizenship backlog and voter education.
Campaign organizers, including The National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA) and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights Los Angeles (CHIRLA), announced that California immigration services organizations will waive United States Citizenship and Immigration Services naturalization fees for qualifying residents through a state-wide $25 million initiative. Without waived fees, applying for naturalization through The Department of Citizenship and Immigration Services charges a non-refundable filing fee of $725 — which must be paid with a check, credit, debit, prepaid card or by check and contribute to systemic barriers to citizenship.
Another organization spearheading the movement is the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which represents 45,000 local janitors, security officers, and airport workers throughout California. SEIU aims to provide educational materials and resources for permanent residents to become empowered citizens through the “Naturalize 2 Million by 2022″ platform.
SEIU President David Huerta stated that these efforts will uplift populations long-awaiting a voice, who dream of citizenship and sacrifice so much for American life.
“A democracy thrives when democracy is in the hands of all of us,” Huerta said. He continued to say that, through the effort, “we can create the change that’s necessary in this country, not only for immigrants, but for all communities across this country.”