April 19th, 2019
Lowell — In the face of national hostility to immigrants, two nonprofit organizations are partnering to ensure that Lowell residents understand and have access to the path to citizenship. This partnership is made possible by the generous support of the Theodore Edson Parker Foundation.
Massachusetts is home to the 7th largest immigrant population in the United States. Foreign-born residents make up almost 17% of the Massachusetts workforce. Nearly 250,000 Massachusetts immigrants are eligible to become citizens, but because of fear, cost, and confusion, only 10% apply for citizenship. In 2007, the Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth named Lowell as one of 11 gateway cities in the Commonwealth. 12.5% of Lowell’s residents are Cambodian immigrants, the highest proportion of residents of Cambodian origin of any place in the United States.
The government has recently taken many steps that will make the citizenship process lengthier and more difficult – increased scrutiny, longer backlogs and wait times, a denaturalization task force, threats to birthright citizenship, elimination of fee waivers for clients who receive public assistance, and icreased barriers for disabled immigrants to obtain language waivers. Recently, the Cambodian community has been targeted for immigration enforcement and deportation. Project Citizenship and CMAA are joining forces to provide outreach in immigrant communities, strengthening screening processes for potential new citizens, and ensuring that Project Citizenship’s 1,000 trained volunteers have the information and guidance that they need.