HIAS Pennsylvania has been selected to receive a grant from the United States Immigration and Citizenship Service’s Citizenship and Integration Grant Program to assist new Americans in the naturalization process. A new initiative, the Philadelphia Citizenship Action Network (P-CAN) which includes HIAS Pennsylvania, Esperanza Immigration Legal Services, New World Association and the Indonesian-American Council, and partners SEAMAAC and the Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia, will conduct outreach, citizenship classes and legal assistance for naturalization applicants. Classes and seminars will be held in communities with high concentrations of immigrants including Northeast Philadelphia, North Philadelphia/Olney, South Philadelphia and Center City. By organizing classes in the heart of immigrant communities with evening hours, P-CAN encourages easy access for immigrants in the surrounding neighborhood.
“Citizenship assistance has been one of our signature projects since we were founded in 1882, and we’ve assisted over 5000 people in the past 15 years,” notes Judith Bernstein-Baker, Esq., Executive Director of HIAS Pennsylvania. Not only does naturalization allow new Americans to vote and hold office, studies show that those who naturalize have increased economic opportunities and success. According to Bernstein-Baker, the community-based interethnic, interfaith P-CAN initiative can place Philadelphia on the map as being a “Citizenship City” that promotes citizenship and integration. “We plan to engage the entire community—pro bono attorneys, volunteer tutors, city officials and community and faith leaders in this two year effort.” On June 14, 2012 the National Conference of Mayors, Chaired by Mayor Nutter, passed a resolution that encouraged immigrants to pursue US Citizenship and seeks to engage government at all levels to examine barriers to naturalization.
Pennsylvania ranks eleventh in the nation in the number of lawful permanent residents potentially eligible for citizenship, and the Philadelphia region has been described as a “re-emerging gateway” for immigrants. The HIAS Pennsylvania P-CAN partnership is the only initiative in the state to receive funding under the “2012 Citizenship Grant Program.”
The first P-CAN information session for enrollment in the program will be held at Esperanza College, 4261 North 5th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19140 on Thursday, October 25, 2012, from 6 to 9 PM. Community members who are seeking to apply for citizenship are invited to attend. For information, contact HIAS Pennsylvania at (215) 832-0900 or Esperanza at 215-324-0746.