July 20, 2017
Increased philanthropic funding and infusion of public dollars will allow City to provide legal assistance and financial counseling to more immigrant New Yorkers
NEW YORK—The de Blasio Administration today announced, during City Hall in Your Borough, that NYCitizenship will now be located in library branches across the five boroughs and launched a new targeted outreach effort to senior New Yorkers in its second year. NYCitizenship is a public-private partnership providing free legal assistance with citizenship applications and financial counseling through the city’s three library systems and the Human Resources Administration. To assist more of New York City’s approximately 650,000 eligible residents apply for citizenship, the City is infusing $675,000 in funding from the Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity, and the program’s private partners have increased their grants, nearly doubling NYCitizenship’s total funding to $1.6 million. With this additional investment, we aim to nearly double the number of people NYCitizenship will represent with citizenship applications this year. NYCitizenship’s expansion will allow even more New Yorkers to become citizens, gaining a stronger voice in civic life and increasing their economic potential.
“We are continuing to embrace immigrant New Yorkers with this expansion of NYCitizenship – a fitting announcement to make in Queens, the world’s borough,” said Mayor de Blasio. “In partnership with the city’s public library systems, and private donors, we’re meeting a critical need by making services to help navigate the citizenship process available in communities across the five boroughs.”
In the program’s second year, NYCitizenship will greatly expand the staff across the program. New outreach efforts will target senior citizens with lawful permanent resident (LPR) status, who would particularly benefit from access to additional resources as citizens. To increase efficiency, NYCitizenship will transition to a community navigator model, which has proven highly successful in providing immigration legal services across New York City. With this year’s additional funding, the City will add a total of eight community navigators to the NYCitizenship program, a major investment in staff. In addition, the program will increase its presence across the five boroughs by providing services at a library site in Staten Island for the first time, and increasing financial counseling services.
Launched in the spring of 2016, NYCitizenship was designed to provide assistance to New York’s immigrant communities in an effort to increase naturalization rates and help eligible New Yorkers access the right to vote and other benefits of citizenship. New Yorkers can make an appointment by calling 311 to receive services including free legal assistance; eligibility screenings; application assistance; free, confidential financial counseling; and eligibility for a citizenship application fee waiver.
Citizenship is a win-win for cities and immigrant communities. On average, when people become citizens they are more civically engaged, earn more, are employed at a higher rate and are more likely to own a home. They also pay more in taxes. A study by the Urban Institute, a think tank founded by President Lyndon Johnson, estimated that 20 metro areas would gain a total of $2 billion in revenue if all eligible residents became citizens.
NYCitizenship originally staged its operations at library branches throughout Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn. Through a partnership with the Human Resources Administration, NYCitizenship also reached HRA clients who were eligible for citizenship. During the program’s first year of operations, NYCitizenship’s outreach efforts helped the program reach over 9,400 individuals, assist over 1,200 people with their citizenship applications, and connect over 250 clients to financial counseling services. Demand for NYCitizenship services has been consistently high, and only continued to increase over the past year. To make an appointment, New York City residents can simply call 311 and say “citizenship appointment.”
NYCitizenship leverages libraries’ positions as trusted community centers in order to deliver free legal and financial services in places where immigrants feel safe.
In the program’s second year, NYCitizenship branches will be located in public libraries in all five boroughs:
NYCitizenship is a collaborative effort by the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, Brooklyn Public Library, New York Public Library, Queens Library, New York City Human Resources Administration, New York Legal Assistance Group, and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City. The program is supported by the Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity alongside private funders including Citi Community Development, the first private funder for NYCitizenship; the Charles H. Revson Foundation; and Robin Hood, the largest poverty-fighting organization in New York.
NYCitizenship is one of several initiatives that the City is involved in related to citizenship. The City also partners with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the three library systems to provide individuals with information on citizenship and other immigration issues at the New American Corners in all city public libraries. The City is also a member of the Cities for Citizenship initiative, a national initiative aimed at increasing citizenship among eligible U.S. permanent residents, and recently participated in the Naturalize NOW Campaign as a member of Cities for Citizenship.
“The path to citizenship in New York can often be a long and difficult one, with many obstacles that prevent completion,” said the First Lady of NYC Chirlane McCray, Chair of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City. “I am proud that NYCitizenship is expanding to meet the needs of more immigrants and improving on the experience by providing free legal and financial services. As new citizens they will have a stronger financial foundation and be more likely to be civically engaged, wherever they live.”
“For immigrant families like my own, U.S. Citizenship has opened the door to achieving the American Dream -- affording full protection under the law, the right to vote and greater financial security, so that each generation may build upon the accomplishments of the last,” said Richard Buery, Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives. “Helping more than half a million eligible New Yorkers get the resources and help they need to fully participate in American life and democracy as Citizens is how we reinforce New York values in a time of anti-immigrant hostility and fear. Congratulations, Commissioner Agarwal and the entire team at MOIA on expandingNYCitizenship !”
“NYCitizenship is providing critical information and services to our newest New Yorkers,” said Gabrielle Fialkoff, Senior Advisor to the Mayor, Director of the Office of Strategic Partnerships and Vice-Chair of the Mayor’s Fund. “We’re grateful to our longtime partners – including the Robin Hood Foundation and Citi Community Development – for supporting the expansion of this vital program to libraries citywide. The success of this program demonstrates the critical importance of private funding to test innovative service delivery models that have the potential to improve the lives of all New Yorkers.”
“Encouraging citizenship in New York City is a win-win for the City and our diverse communities,” said Nisha Agarwal, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. “Citizenship grants legal protections and leads people to better job opportunities, higher wages and increased civic engagement – it also increases tax revenue. But for many, the barriers to citizenship can be overwhelming. We want to do more to help the approximately 650,000 New Yorkers who are eligible take the last step to become a citizen. With this increased funding, we’re increasing staff, opening library sites in all five boroughs and we aim to nearly double the number of people represented by NYCitizenship for citizenship applications. We are so thankful to have the support of the Administration, philanthropy, our city’s library systems and our sister agencies in this work.”
“We are excited to join the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and other great public and private partners building on the success of the program,” said Matthew Klein, Executive Director of the Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity. “Becoming a citizen has positive economic effects, and supporting New York City’s immigrant community has never been more important. Our office’s funding and staff will help ensure that the City captures key lessons about the impact and methods for scaling this work.”
“As the hub of every community in the most diverse county in the country, Queens Library is proud to offer services like NYCitizenship to our immigrant customers, and create a safe space where they can find the help and information that they need quickly, confidentially, and easily,” said Dennis Walcott, President and CEO of Queens Library. “NYCitizenship is one of the many innovative ways that our city offers a chance at the American dream of opportunity, equality, and citizenship to everyone.”
“In a multicultural city as dynamic as New York, the Library is committed to offering diverse resources that support New Yorkers,” said Tony Marx, President of The New York Public Library. “NYCitizenship is a natural addition to our suite of services, which includes NYPL’s popular ESOL programs, bilingual storytimes, and educational programs in other languages -- not to mention the City’s IDNYC and New American Corners. We are proud to work with our fellow library systems and the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs to expand this significant resource for New York’s immigrant community.”
“Public libraries remain one of the first points of entry for new immigrants, and the expansion of NYCitizenship will allow us to meet the needs of our patrons with free legal assistance and financial counseling in several languages,” said Linda E. Johnson, President and CEO of Brooklyn Public Library. “Brooklyn continues to be one of the most important immigrant destinations in the entire country, and programs like NYCitizenship, supported by the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, mean that the proud descendants of immigrants can welcome a new generation of Brooklynites.”
“We are so proud to support the NYCitizenship program in New York City’s libraries, trusted places which provide critical services to their communities,” said Julie Sandorf, President of the Charles H. Revson Foundation. “By hosting the program in library branches, we hope to reach New Yorkers in their own neighborhoods, bridging the gap between the legal service providers and the people who need them the most.”
“In April 2016, NYLAG proudly partnered with the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, the Human Resources Administration, and the city’s public library systems on this innovative initiative to assist immigrants in obtaining citizenship and expand their economic security and opportunity,” said Beth Goldman, President and Attorney-in-Charge of the New York Legal Assistance Group. “The program has exceeded our high expectations, and we are thrilled that the program will be expanded in its second year, making it possible for more immigrants to become fully engaged citizens with the financial knowledge and economic tools to build secure lives for themselves and their families.”
“As the federal government cracks down on immigration, it is more important than ever that we help immigrant New Yorkers achieve citizenship,” said Letitia James, Public Advocate for the City of New York. “Through providing legal and financial assistance to eligible immigrants, NYCitizenship offers an avenue in which citizenship can be realized. Mayor de Blasio has done an excellent job by increasing funding for NYCitizenship so they can expand to serve more immigrant New Yorkers in these dire times.”
“Queens is truly the World’s Borough, with neighborhoods built by immigrants from every corner of the globe,” said Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. “At this time especially, it’s critical that local municipalities do everything we can to support immigrant communities. Lining the paths to citizenship with more resources and programs like NYCitizenship is not just good for our New American neighbors and families, it’s good for Queens.”
“NYCitizenship is helping bring Brooklynites out of the shadows to ensure all are part of civic and economic life in spaces that are among our greatest equalizers — our libraries,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams. “Thanks to the leadership of the City, the Brooklyn Public Library is providing valuable citizenship assistance services to our residents, ensuring we can weave all into the fabric of our borough regardless of immigration status. Nobody should live in fear, because Brooklyn is a home for everyone.”
“Our country and our city derive our strength from our amazingly diverse population,” said Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. “Expanding the NYCitizenship program is a step to not only embrace all immigrants have to offer our society but to also ensure that those who have contributed to our city receive the full benefits of the systems they have helped support. This program helps our immigrant population and our city as a whole and I’m so glad the Mayor has worked to strengthen it.”
“I commend the expansion of NYCitizenship throughout our great city, and I know it will greatly benefit New Yorkers and the future of our nation,” said Congressman Gregory W. Meeks. “With the Statue of Liberty bearing witness, we must always roll out the welcome mat and help those seeking citizenship. Through this expanded effort, our city is once again setting an example for other major cities to follow, and I commend Mayor de Blasio for his leadership on this matter.”
“We must continue New York City’s proud tradition of welcoming individuals that come to America in search of a better life,” said Congressman Joseph Crowley. “I applaud our city’s leadership for expanding the successful NYCitizenship program, which provides information and resources essential to immigrants that live, work and contribute to our great city and want to fulfill their goal of becoming citizens of the United States.”
“When more New Yorkers become citizens our economy and communities grow stronger. Increased public and private funding for NYCitizenship shows how our City supports immigrants with innovative programs delivered at libraries and with the kind of assistance proven to work best,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca, Chair of the Committee on Immigration. “I applaud the special focus on seniors and coordination among several City agencies. NYCitizenship’s outreach and programs helped thousands of New Yorkers last year and it is right to extend that success with more funding and locations in all five boroughs.”
“Now even more immigrant New Yorkers will have access to the resources they need to pursue the American dream,” said Council Member Daniel Dromm. “Personal income or lack thereof should not serve as a barrier to people who contribute so much to our society on a daily basis. Thanks to the participation of our city’s libraries, many of those seeking to enroll in NYCitizenship need only walk to their local branch. I celebrate this development and will continue to work with the de Blasio administration to open doors for our immigrant friends and neighbors.”
“By supporting our immigrant population, this City is ensuring those who have helped to build our communities have the resources they need to continue to give back,” said Councilman I. Daneek Miller. “By partnering with our great library system, the NYCitizenship program is combining resources to give every resident an opportunity to get on the path to citizenship, and I want to thank Mayor Bill de Blasio and Commissioner Nisha Agarwal for expanding these resources in my district and throughout the New York.”
“I want to commend the Mayor’s Office and the numerous immigration advocacy groups for their work in expanding the NYCitizenship program to all five boroughs,” said Council Member Mathieu Eugene. “I am also proud that the second year of this program will bring a new site to the 40th District. As a city built on the hard work of our immigrant community, it is of vital importance that we use all available resources to assist residents on their path to attain citizenship. These families deserve the benefits of increased civic engagement as well as employment opportunities, and that is why the expansion of this initiative is so important to the city of New York.”
“Citizenship is the bedrock of our democracy and I am proud that our City is devoting unprecedented resources at this moment in our nation’s history to help more New Yorkers achieve the American Dream,” said Council Member Dan Garodnick.
“I am proud that despite the divisive political rhetoric in our nation’s capital, the City of New York remains committed to welcoming and empowering people of all backgrounds,” said Council Member Laurie A. Cumbo. “Immigrant New Yorkers, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, have been instrumental to the vitality of our communities throughout the five boroughs. It is paramount that we ensure all New Yorkers have the opportunity to pursue a path to citizenship.”
“Having hosted an immigration attorney in my district office for several years, I know that legal permanent residents often need assistance navigating the legal system,” said Council Member Debi Rose. “This infusion of public and private dollars will help meet those needs in my diverse North Shore district, increasing economic and civic opportunities for more New Yorkers, while also providing valuable financial planning advice. I look forward to welcoming the NYCitizenship team to the St. George Library.”
“Legal assistance is one of the most sought after requests my office receives from new immigrants,” said Council Member Peter Koo. “New York City welcomes new immigrants, but the reality these immigrants face is often one of bureaucratic delays made worse by confusing regulations on multiple levels of government. Expanding assistance to our immigrant community will do much to set those law-abiding residents seeking citizenship on the path to realizing their dream of becoming Americans.”
“The many aspiring Americans living in New York City contribute in countless ways,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez. “In this perilous political climate, with disastrous policy emanating from Washington, we need to do all we can to support and nurture this community because they will drive our future. I applaud the de Blasio Administration for their dedication to those looking to set roots in our great city, as we know their impact will be transformative.”
“NYCitizenship provides invaluable help to immigrant families that want to become citizens,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres. “The citizenship process is a long road, and the legal assistance that they provide allows immigrant families to navigate this process much easier. I am proud that one of the centers will now be located in my district and look forward to continuing our work together.”
“The success of the NYCitizenship program has ensured that many permanent residents across our City have access to critical resources as they navigate the complex process to become a U.S. citizen,” said State Senator Gustavo Rivera. “This announcement represents a further commitment from our City’s administration as they continue working to help our immigrant communities to entirely integrate into the social, civic and economic fabric of our City and our country.”
“NYCitizenship further affirms that New York City is welcoming at all,” said State Senator Leroy Comrie. “I thank Mayor Bill de Blasio, Queens Library President Dennis Walcott, and the many private sponsors of NYCitizenship for putting forth the effort and resources needed to make this expansion into our city’s library systems a reality.”
“Expanding NYCitizenship is crucial to providing a pathway to citizenship for New York City’s immigrants,” said State Senator Tony Avella. “Inviting our City’s immigrants to better participate in all of the benefits that come with being a New Yorker will allow for every resident of our great city to realize the American dream. Queens has always and will continue to welcome families from across the globe to celebrate in the beautiful, diverse culture that is our borough. I am happy to support the NYCitizenship expansion and am proud that Queens is leading the way.”
“The expansion of NYCitizenship is great news and a service that is needed in our city,” said Assemblymember Marcos Crespo, Chair of the Assembly Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force. “Almost 50 percent of the elderly living in New York City are immigrants and over 110,000 households throughout the five boroughs are home to immigrant grandparents living with their grandchildren. The need to help this population of legal permanent residents to take the next step and become American Citizens is paramount. Mayor de Blasio’s ongoing work to fully integrate our fellow residents into our society deserves our appreciation and support.”
“As an immigrant myself, I understand firsthand the power and promise of the American Dream,” said Assemblymember Alicia Hyndman. “NYCitizenship will help eligible New Yorkers access the right to vote and play a greater role in our democracy.”
“As the Assemblyman who represents one of the most diverse districts in our city and state, I know that New York’s strength is in its diversity,” said Assemblymember David Weprin. “When we make it easier for residents of this city to participate in our civic life, we make for a richer, stronger and better New York. I commend the de Blasio administration for expanding NYCitizenship and look forward to supporting the program to increase our civic engagement in immigrant communities.”
“The Mayor gets it! The immigrant community in New York contributes so much to our city,” said Assemblymember Clyde Vanel. “We are excited about the expansion of the NYCitizenship Program. The program will aid the immigrant population in New York City by making, legal assistance with obtaining citizenship, even more accessible. It is important for us not to turn our backs on the immigrant community but provide them with the legal aid, financial counseling and a path to citizenship.”