On Feb. 5, the New Americans Campaign and New America Media hosted an ethnic media roundtable in San Jose to discuss naturalization for the Bay Area’s citizenship-eligible lawful permanent residents.
This roundtable took place as the San Jose New Americans Campaign plans a free mega citizenship workshop on Feb. 27.
Representatives from local Campaign partners Services Immigrant Rights & Education Network (SIREN), Asian Law Alliance and New American Workforce spoke at the roundtable. There were also speakers from the City of San Jose’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and the local United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office.
Over 50 attendees, including journalists from 21 media outlets, attended the roundtable to discuss the role of ethnic media in amplifying the importance of citizenship and to hear personal stories from newly naturalized citizens.
John Kramar, local USCIS district director, says becoming a citizen is easier and faster than people think.
“After someone takes the citizenship test, they often say, ‘That wasn’t as bad as I thought,’” Kramar said. “There was a time in years past when you would file and it would take several years. We’re now averaging four to five months.”
That means that green card holders who apply for U.S. citizenship now could be able to register to vote in time for the 2016 elections.
Newly naturalized citizen Hoang Truong says becoming a citizen gave him “the key” to unlocking a better life.
“When we become a U.S. citizen,” he said, “we have the key – the key to the higher education door, the key to freedom, the key to vote.”
With the upcoming Presidential elections, immigrant rights organizations are encouraging those who are eligible to apply for citizenship now.
“Naturalization empowers people,” said Vanessa Sandoval, immigration legal services program director of SIREN. “They become engaged. They have a voice.”
For more on the roundtable see coverage on New America Media.