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"ABQ is Home" Citizenship Launch on Citizenship Day

City of Albuquerque Joins Local Immigrant & Refugee-based Organizations to Launch “Albuquerque is Home” Citizenship Initiative.

September 17, 2018

Albuquerque-- Today, on National Citizenship Day, the City of Albuquerque, the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center, El CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos, the New Mexico Asian Family Center, the Partnership for Community Action, and other local immigrant and refugee-based/serving organizations and financial institutions officially launched their private/public partnership, “Albuquerque is Home”, in order to promote citizenship in Albuquerque.

The local initiative is part of The Cities for Citizenship (C4C) “America is Home” Initiative,  a four-year, $5 million challenge grant aimed at supporting municipalities and community partners across the nation-- including Albuquerque and Santa Fe--in the promotion of citizenship. Participating cities recognize the multitude of benefits to investing in citizenship— including fostering civic engagement, protecting families from family separation,  and boosting local economies.

Mayor Tim Keller has taken steps to ensure that Albuquerque is a welcoming City to all Albuquerque residents and has acknowledged that full immigrant integration is conducive to economic development, public safety, and to helping Albuquerque families and communities thrive. Supporting citizenship efforts is one more way in which the City can honor this commitment.

“In Albuquerque, we welcome all people regardless of where they came from and we urge immigrants and refugees to become citizens when they are eligible,” said Mayor Tim Keller. “Our community works best when all residents, including our immigrant community, can fully participate in civic life. Immigrants and refugees already make huge contributions to our community and economy, and we’re going to continue to encourage that. That’s what makes us one Albuquerque."

“We are proud to now live in a City in which our administration and local elected officials have voiced their commitment to making Albuquerque a City in which all Albuquerque communities can thrive, passing policies which are conducive to immigrant integration, and supporting citizenship initiatives which will benefit all Albuquerqueans,” stated Fabiola Bawden, community organizer at El CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos, who is aiming to gain her citizenship status in the upcoming year, “More than ever, in this current political climate, our communities are organizing to protect our families and have our voices heard in the ballot box.”

The “Albuquerque is Home” naturalization public/private project will spearhead a comprehensive, innovative naturalization pipeline that combines leadership development and training of impacted communities, direct legal services, access to financial services, and civic and voter engagement. 

Immigrants play a vital role in New Mexico’s economy. Between 2014 and 2015, immigrants in New Mexico contributed over a billion dollars in yearly taxes, generated $3.4 billion in spending power, and represented one out of seven small business owners and one in eight workers.

In addition to a host of benefits for individuals, naturalization can have important macroeconomic benefits for local communities. When someone becomes a U.S. citizen, he/she is more likely to secure employment, access higher paying jobs, and are almost twice as likely as non-citizens to be homeowners. Economic benefits to citizenship include a growth in spending power, higher GDP, and increased tax revenues, all of which can boost local economies.  Immigrants are nearly twice as likely to start a business as U.S. born individuals. Nearly one in five small businesses is owned by an immigrant. As a result, immigrant business owners are important job creators for local communities. In fact, immigrant-owned businesses employ one out of ten workers in the United States.

According to the American Immigration Council, as of 2017 more than a third of all immigrants in New Mexico are naturalized U.S. citizens. There are currently 8.8 million lawful permanent residents (LPRs) who are eligible to naturalize across the United States. In the Albuquerque Metro Area, there are approximately 20,000 legal permanent residents who are eligible to naturalize.

“This is my home now and I want it to be a welcoming and nurturing place for us to grow our family tree in this land’, stated Huong Nguyen from the NM Asian Family Center. Nguyen continued, “Having a private/public partnership to provide comprehensive naturalization process and civic engagement in New Mexico will help our economy and the overall well-being of our communities.”

"The immigrant community's voice in New Mexico and across the country is more important now than ever,” stated Vanessa Gonzalez, an Equal Justice Works Paralegal from the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center. “As the current federal administration continues to strip away protections from immigrants, we need the more than 21, 000 legal permanent residents in Albuquerque alone to become citizens. We are proud to work with our local government and community partners to bring much needed legal services to folks who otherwise are unable to get help to naturalize.”

The Partnership for Community Action points to the fact that investing in citizenship fosters a more inclusive, robust and representative democracy, “Citizenship is a goal that many in our immigrant communities aspire to. But more than just citizenship, our collective effort in New Mexico is to create opportunities for active citizenship, because citizenship comes with many responsibilities,” said Mayra Acevedo, Community Advocacy Manager at Partnership for Community Action.

According to data revealed by USCIS, there has been a 93% increase in the backlog of citizenship applications since late 2015. At a time when backlogs are keeping more than 750,000 eligible residents from obtaining their citizenship, the “America is Home” partnership across the nation is also necessary to advocate that the Trump administration address the backlog and continue naturalization rates that will reflect the population,  keep up with past trends, and recognize the important role that immigrants have in the economic, cultural, and civic fiber of the nation.

In addition to a host of civic engagement activities during the year, the City of Albuquerque and the “Albuquerque is Home” participating organizations will co-sponsor a citizenship and civic engagement fair on October 20th at 10:00 AM at ACE Leadership High School 1240 Bellamah Ave NW. For more information, call 505-247-1023.

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*Organizations included as partners in the America is Home grant received by El CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos include: the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center (NMILC), Partnership for Community Action (PCA), New Mexico Asian Family Center (NMAFC), Catholic Charities Refugee Department , Encuentro, Centro Savila, and Nusenda Credit Union.