New Partnership Program to Naturalize City’s Immigrants; One in Eight San Franciscans Eligible for Citizenship
SAN FRANCISCO – Today, Mayor Edwin M. Lee, Board President David Chiu, Dr. Sandra R. Hernández, CEO of The San Francisco Foundation and local community partners announced a new initiative to help San Francisco immigrants navigate the process of applying for citizenship.
The San Francisco Pathways to Citizenship Initiative is a partnership designed to build community, ensure economic mobility, and strengthen civic participation among new citizens.
“San Francisco is a model for the nation in welcoming immigrants and empowering new citizens, but we can do even better,” said Mayor Ed Lee. “This initiative will ensure that the 100,000 San Franciscans who are eligible for citizenship can pursue new opportunities and be part of building San Francisco’s economy and civic life from the very beginning.”
The San Francisco Pathways to Citizenship Initiative is a three-year public-private partnership between local foundations and the City and County of San Francisco’s Office of Civic Engagement & Immigrant Affairs (OCEIA). Funders have committed $400,000 annually over three years, with the first year serving as a pilot phase to identify new approaches, methodologies, and service delivery models to promote citizenship and civic participation among San Francisco’s citizenship-eligible immigrants.
“Our new immigrants are change agents who bring a bold spirit of innovation to our region as future leaders, voters, community organizers, and entrepreneurs,” said Dr. Sandra R. Hernández, CEO of The San Francisco Foundation. “It is our shared responsibility to ensure eligible San Franciscans are embraced and given access to the same opportunities we all want for our families: economic mobility, a chance to have our voice heard in our democratic process, and to build a bright future for generations to come.”
The new initiative benefits not only those who will become citizens, but also the communities in which new citizens live, work, and contribute – by lowering poverty rates, increasing economic mobility and access to higher education, ensuring greater access to affordable health care, enhancing civic participation, and creating stability and cohesion for immigrant families.
San Francisco is home to 100,000 citizenship-eligible residents—a figure that represents approximately one in every eight residents. Of the 100,000 citizenship-eligible residents, more than 60 percent are Asian Pacific Islanders and the vast majority, more than 80 percent, are working-age adults between the ages of 18 and 64.
Over the next three years, a coalition of legal and social service providers, led by Self Help for the Elderly, will work together to inform and support at least a quarter of eligible San Franciscans about their rights to apply for citizenship, with a goal helping at least half become citizens.
“We’re energized by this phenomenal opportunity to create a new, collaborative model that will effectively ensure more of our eligible immigrants achieve citizenship,” said Anni Chung, Executive Director of Self Help for the Elderly.
Personal Stories Shared at Today’s Launch:
- Claudia Rodriguez was granted asylum from Mexico. She applied for LPR status a year after being granted asylum, and five years later was granted U.S. citizenship. Claudia was sworn in as a naturalized citizen in April 2013. She looks forward to completing her studies and becoming a registered nurse as she continues to volunteer (as she has been for several years) at a local convalescent home in her spare time.
- Mrs. Su-Fang Gao, 79-year old Chinese immigrant, attended citizenship classes and workshops at Self-Help for the Elderly to get help with her application, a fee waiver and to prepare for her citizenship exam and interview.
- Mrs. Gregory Takhunts, a 78-year old asylee from the former Soviet Union, attended English and citizenship prep classes at Jewish Family and Children’s Services who accompanied him to his naturalization interview in April 2013.
“Immigrants are a vital part of San Francisco, operating a third of our small businesses,” said Board President Chiu. “This Initiative is an investment in our future, and the unique partnership between the City, community and philanthropy will ensure a stronger San Francisco for all.”
About The San Francisco Pathways to Citizenship Initiative: The San Francisco Pathways to Citizenship Initiative is a three-year public-private partnership that aims to promote citizenship and civic participation among San Francisco’s naturalization-eligible immigrants. The initiative is supported by local foundations—including the Asian Pacific Fund, Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, The San Francisco Foundation, The Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation, and the Walter & Elise Haas Fund—and the City and County of San Francisco’s Office of Civic Engagement & Immigrant Affairs. Service provider partners include the lead agency, Self-Help for the Elderly, and Asian Law Caucus, Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, Catholic Charities CYO, International Institute of the Bay Area, Jewish Family and Children’s Services, and La Raza Community Resource Center. The Immigrant Legal Resource Center serves as a technical assistance provider to the collaborative, and Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees provides philanthropic coordination.
Read more posts about our efforts to support immigrant integration.