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Caroline Fan on October 31, 2008 - 6:47pm
States and local governments can take action to further assist naturalization -- from improving registration procedures at driver licensing offices and other government offices, to assisting in the naturalization process. Illinois' Office of New Americans has become the leader among the at least 15 states that have offices to tailor services to immigrants and help with naturalization.
States can create government offices or fund organizations to assist immigrants to successfully complete the process of obtaining U.S. citizenship through naturalization. A few recent examples include:
- In February 2008, Washington's Governor Christine Gregoire signed Executive Order 08-01, creating a New Americans Policy Council to promote naturalization, English skills, and public-private partnerships for integration. The Washington state legislature took the additional step of providing $340,000 in funding to promote community economic development and build the capacity of organizations across the state that provide naturalization assistance to legal permanent residents.
- Arizona SB 1096 appropriates funds for English language learners, and Missouri HB 2010 provides funds for naturalization assistance to certain legal immigrants.
- In fall of 2007, New Jersey created a Blue Ribbon Panel on Immigrant Policy to develop strategies to better integrate immigrants in that state, and New York announced a $6 million initiative to fund nineteen state organizations that help New York immigrants become United States citizens. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick's FY 2009 budget proposed increasing funding for that state's Citizenship for New Americans Program from $500,000 to $1.5 million.
States can also enact refundable tax credits for naturalization expenses:
- Indiana's SB 240 would create an Adult Education Tax Credit which would give employers a credit of up to $300 per employee and up to $5,000 per year for payment of an employee's expenses related to adult education programs, including citizenship training.
- Minnesota's HF 747 would create a specific Citizenship Income Tax Credit.
- Texas's HB 240 would require school districts to grant students an excused absence from school when appearing at a governmental office to complete paperwork required in connection with the student's application for U.S. citizenship or to take part in a naturalization oath ceremony.
States can also improve government communication and coordination over programs promoting immigrant integration:
- Illinois's SB 1746 enacted the Latino Family Commission in 2007, which will advise the Governor and General Assembly, as well as work directly with State agencies to improve and expand existing policies, services, programs, and opportunities for Latino families. In 2008, Illinois approved SB 783 to provide funds for more bilingual personnel in public agencies.
- Progressive States, IL: Policies to Bring Immigrants into Economic Mainstream
- New Americans Policy Council, For the Benefit of All: Strategic Recommendations to Enhance the State's Role in the Integration of Immigrants in Illinois
- Illinois Coalition for Immigrants and Refugee Rights, The New Americans Initiative
- NCSL, State and Local Immigrant Offices