The grant is an attempt by USCIS to assist California low-income legal permanent residents who are eligible for naturalization. In 2014 (the latest available data), 2,470,000 California residents were eligible for naturalization, at least 118,000 of which reside in Fresno, Kings, Tulare, and Merced Counties.
Through a partnership of FAS and SJCL’s “New American Legal Clinic (NALC),” legal permanent residents take citizenship classes and, if needed, English language classes at FAS and then are provided free naturalization services through NALC, including filing necessary forms and providing representation through all phases of the process, with an attorney attending every interview.
In its five-year history, NALC has provided such services for legal permanent residents from at least 25 different countries. NALC has two full-time attorneys, client services coordinators, student advocates, and volunteer attorneys from the community. SJCL would like to sincerely thank the attorneys who have donated their time pro bono to help fill this need, including Justin Sweeney, winner of the 2017 NALC Pro Bono Volunteer of the Year award.
The Valley’s population is ethnically diverse; 22 percent of its population is foreign born and English is not the language spoken in the home for 47 percent of the population. Less than 15 percent of Valley residents hold a bachelor’s degree and more than a quarter live below the poverty line. This combination demonstrates the Valley’s need for English language training, citizenship instruction, and naturalization assistance to break the poverty cycle.
This grant, the third of its kind to FAS and SJCL, will help these prospective citizens fully participate in the American economy and life.