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New Campaign From LA Mayor’s Office Could Help 350,000 Angelenos Become U.S. Citizens

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As nationwide efforts marking Citizenship Day kicked off yesterday — including a new White House initiative to reach out to the nearly nine million permanent US residents who are eligible for citizenship — LA Mayor Eric Garcetti’s new campaign could help hundreds of thousands of LA immigrants become citizens.

As part of the “Step Forward” campaign — which began earlier this year as an effort to reach out to the 100,000 Angelenos eligible for 2014’s immigration actions — the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs will encourage the more than 350,000 of LA’s permanent resident immigrants take the final step in the naturalization process.

“There are hundreds of thousands of Angelenos who are eligible to become U.S. citizens, but for one reason or another have not initiated or completed the naturalization process,” said Mayor Garcetti.

“We want to make sure that residents have a friendlier, quicker, and easier time navigating their path to citizenship. The ‘Step Forward LA’ website provides a step-by-step guide to the citizenship process, and an interactive map where users can find resources — such as library “Citizenship Corners,” ESL and civics classes, and links to local non-profit organizations — that can help our friends, neighbors, family members, and co-workers get on the path to citizenship.”

From the Mayor’s Office:

A key component of the campaign is StepForward.lacity.org, where visitors can fill out a simple online questionnaire to help confirm their eligibility for citizenship. Once confirmed as eligible, they can instantly access a multilingual platform that connects them to resources and carefully guides them through the steps to citizenship. Across Los Angeles County, there are an estimated 750,000 legal permanent residents who have not yet naturalized as U.S. citizens — with nearly half of them residing in the City of Los Angeles.

There are currently “Citizenship Corners” in each of the City’s 73 library branches, where residents can access tools — sample test materials, instructional DVDs, and more — to assist them as they work through the naturalization process. The Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs is partnering with the Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles to raise funds for the initiative with the support of the philanthropic community. As part of the citizenship campaign, the Mayor’s Office will also co-host immigration and naturalization workshops with local non-profit organizations.

The Mayor noted “the tremendous rights and advantages of U.S. citizenship,” which include the right to vote, opportunities to earn higher incomes and secure healthcare coverage, the ability to obtain a U.S. passport, an easier time starting businesses, obtaining loans and mortgages, and accessing public benefits such as Social Security and Medicare.

750,000 potential new United States citizens — to put that into perspective, it takes 700,000 people to make a new Congressional district.

There’s no ignoring the changing demographics of the nation, and California continues to serve as a reminder and cautionary tale for the Republican Party as their candidates for President spew anti-immigrant and anti-Latino rhetoric across the campaign trail.

Once upon a time, California was a solidly red state — the home of Presidents Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, after all — but harsh, anti-immigrant legislation sent Latino and immigrant voters to the ballot box in droves, driving the state GOP into the ground and near obliteration.

As a result, California has not gone for a Republican Presidential nominee since 1988, and no Republicans hold any state-wide office today.

Nationwide, 800,000 Latinos turn 18 each year — “that’s one every 30 seconds, or more than 66,000 individuals per month” — and by 2060, the Latino population is expected to increase by 115% to 119 million.

It’s a tsunami of potential new voters, and new polling has shown that Republicans will need at least 47% of Latino voters to recapture the White House. But the last time a Republican nominee received a number even that close was over a decade ago, when George W. Bush won 44% of the Latino vote in 2004.

Now, in this toxic climate — where the GOP’s leading candidate for President considers calling Mexicans “rapists” his Latino outreach — it’s heard to see 47% becoming a reality.