Helping Massachusetts' Green Card Residents Gain Citizenship


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Photo: Daily Hampshire Gazette

NORTHAMPTON – An agency that works with immigrants will team up with a Boston-based organization to help green-card holding residents gain citizenship.
The Center for New Americans and the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition in September received a $250,000 grant to expand services to help lawful permanent residents attain citizenship status in a program known as the Rural Massachusetts Citizenship Partnership.
According to Laurie Millman, the two-year grant was awarded by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services through its Citizenship and Integration Grant Program. The program, according to Millman, is part of a multifaceted effort to provide citizenship preparation help for immigrants and organizations that work closely with immigrant populations.
She said the steps to become a citizen can take a long time, and involve studying, filling out voluminous paperwork, and taking a long test. All of that can be intimidating and present considerable barriers to attaining citizenship.
“It will give us more staffing and support to do outreach and to work with agencies like libraries to make the process easier,” she said. “It’s a long process and it can be daunting.”
Millman said easily 30 percent of the people Center for New Americans work with are Latino.
She said she has applied for the grant two previous times, but it wasn’t until this year that the application was approved.
“This is amazingly competitive,” she said. “It’s a generous grant. It’s a great grant.”
The program aims to provide 230 permanent residents with citizenship instruction, and 1,320 permanent residents with naturalization application services.
The money will be used both to fund outreach efforts as well as to increase the services offered to those  who want to become citizens.
The Center for New Americans offers classes in English as a Second Language, tutoring, study groups, technology instruction and new citizen services in Hampshire and Franklin counties and parts of Hampden County. MIRA offers immigration legal services all over New England.
The grant and partnership between the Center and MIRA will allow the organizations to help many more immigrants.
Millman said in their outreach efforts, the Center will go to churches, mosques, libraries, and schools.
In addition to the grant program, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offers the Citizenship Resource Center, a web-based resource that provides learning material to prepare to become a United States citizen.