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City of Albuquerque, Local Immigrant & Refugee-based Organizations Celebrate Citizenship Day

New efforts to help increase naturalization rates.

September 17, 2019

Today, on National Citizenship Day, the City of Albuquerque, New Mexico Immigrant Law Center (NMILC), and El CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos are announcing new changes to local legal services to encourage the full integration of immigrant communities in our city while also providing opportunities for community engagement.

City of Albuquerque community centers will soon be the new home of free weekly legal clinics that have helped the immigrant community obtain essential services to help them navigate through the naturalization process and guide them towards local resources to be better informed of their rights and how to keep their families together.

“Albuquerque joined the Cities for Citizenship network to support our immigrant community on their pathway to citizenship. We have increased the number of citizenship workshops, increased our outreach to Asian and African immigrants, and created space in libraries and community centers to provide resources that help legal permanent residents gain their citizenship. When eligible immigrants gain their citizenship, it strengthens our city,” said Mayor Tim Keller.

“Citizenship has been historically inaccessible to the immigrant community, with unfamiliar legal systems and high legal fees,” said John Jabez Ledres, New Mexico Immigrant Law Center (NMILC). “Our workshop with partner organizations and the City makes these services accessible so that New Mexicans can gain safety from deportation, have the ability to travel, petition for family members, access public benefits, and, perhaps most importantly, vote. Our efforts in removing barriers ensures that immigrant families have the opportunity to fully thrive and contribute to our community.”

In line with the “ABQ is Home” initiative, a four-year grant from the America is Home initiative supporting immigrant integration, these weekly clinics by NMILC have been hosted at El CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos. However, over the years due to the success of these legal clinics, they have reached their capacity at their current venue.

“As a new citizen myself, I urge those who are eligible to naturalize to use their new status to protect our families from the devastating impact of deportation, and exercise our labor rights,” said Fabiola Landeros, community organizer at El CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos. “We must grow our community’s power locally, to increase voter engagement, to impact systemic change and ensure that our voices are heard in the 2020 elections, and engage mixed status families to keep families together and advance workers’ rights.”

City community centers will provide the community with space to better acquire free legal screenings to determine eligibility for citizenship, community engagement such as interactive workshops about labor rights, immigrants’ rights, community engagement, and how citizenship can be used as a tool to protect one's family and community. The efforts include a workshop created by the NMILC that has been specifically targeted for the Pan-Asian and African Community at the New Mexico Asian Family Center.

According to the NMILC, in New Mexico there are more than 47,000 legal permanent residents who may be eligible to naturalize and over 21,000 who live in Albuquerque alone.

City along with community partners will continue to explore city spaces to ensure that immigrant families feel welcomed in Albuquerque and are acknowledged for their multitude of contributions. The free weekly legal and civic engagement clinics will continue to take place at El CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos (714 4th SW, Albuquerque, NM 87102) every Wednesday from 1-5 p.m. until the new location, date/time are announced.