D.C. Mayor

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY RACHEL CHASON rachel.chason@wash­post.com

Muriel E. Bowser said the District will help as many as 2,000 city em­ploy­ees and their fam­i­lies ap­ply for U.S. cit­i­zen­ship.

The District plans to help up to 2,000 green-card hold­ers who work for the D.C. gov­ern­ment, and their fam­ily mem­bers, ap­ply for U.S. cit­i­zen­ship, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said Tues­day.

Speak­ing at a nat­u­ral­iza­tion cer­e­mony Tues­day morn­ing, Bowser said the city is join­ing with the Na­tional Im­mi­gra­tion Fo­rum to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion ses­sions, le­gal help, as­sis­tance find­ing lan­guage classes and coach­ing for the cit­i­zen­ship test. She said she hopes the pro­gram would in­spire area busi­nesses to make sim­i­lar com­mit­ments to their em­ploy­ees.

The District is the eighth city to par­tic­i­pate in the pro­gram, join­ing Los An­ge­les, Hous­ton, Mi­ami and oth­ers, said Jen­nie Mur­ray, di­rec­tor of in­te­gra­tion pro­grams at the Na­tional Im­mi­gra­tion Fo­rum.

Green-card hold­ers pay as much as $2,000 for le­gal ser­vices to be­come cit­i­zens, mean­ing a fam­ily of four could save as much as $8,000 in le­gal fees as a re­sult of the District’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the pro­gram, Mur­ray said.

The Bowser ad­min­is­tra­tion es­ti­mates there are about 20,000 District res­i­dents who are el­i­gi­ble for nat­u­ral­iza­tion but have not started the ap­pli­ca­tion process to be­come cit­i­zens. Of­fi­cials said they did not know how many of the city’s 36,000 em­ploy­ees are green-card hold­ers and would be el­i­gi­ble for the pro­gram.

“The priv­i­leges of cit­i­zen­ship are many, but so are the obli­ga­tions,” Bowser told 121 im­mi­grants who were nat­u­ral­ized dur­ing a cer­e­mony in U.S. District Court, where she an­nounced the part­ner­ship. “Es­pe­cially over the last year, ev­ery Amer­i­can has been chal­lenged to de­fine and pre­serve the val­ues we hold dear,” Bowser said, al­lud­ing to Pres­i­dent Trump’s elec­tion with­out men­tion­ing the pres­i­dent by name. She also cel­e­brated the District’s an­tidis­crim­i­na­tion laws and said ev­ery res­i­dent, re­gard­less of their cit­i­zen­ship sta­tus, should feel safe re­port­ing crimes to D.C. po­lice.

Days be­fore Trump took of­fice, Bowser was part of a group of lead­ers in heav­ily Demo­cratic ci­ties who launched le­gal-de­fense funds for un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants to help them fight de­por­ta­tion. Un­like funds in Los An­ge­les, New York and Chicago, the District’s $500,000 fund does not cover rep­re­sen­ta­tion for de­tained adults, which ad­vo­cates say leaves some of the city’s most vul­ner­a­ble res­i­dents with slim chances of fight­ing de­por­ta­tion.

Bowser’s of­fice says the scope of the pro­gram is lim­ited by Repub­li­cans in Congress, which has over­sight over the District.

Some ac­tivists have crit­i­cized Bowser for not pub­licly con­demn­ing a Septem­ber raid in which 14 un­doc­u­mented res­i­dents were ar­rested as part of a crack­down by U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment in ci­ties that op­pose Pres­i­dent Trump’s im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies. Bowser’s ad­min­is­tra­tion said it shared con­cerns about the raid and main­tained its com­mit­ment to be­ing a “sanc­tu­ary city.”

Sapna Pandya, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the im­mi­grant rights group Many Languages One Voice, said the new pro­gram to help green­card hold­ers be­come cit­i­zens will not af­fect the “vast ma­jor­ity of mem­bers of the District’s im­mi­grant work­force,” many of whom are not liv­ing in the coun­try legally.

“If the District re­ally wants to help im­mi­grant work­ers, it should be ex­tended to folks who are here on TPS, through DACA or who might be un­doc­u­mented,” said Pandya, re­fer­ring to res­i­dents who re­ceived Tem­po­rary Pro­tected Sta­tus des­ig­na­tion or qual­i­fied for the Obama-era De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals pro­gram.

Fiona Athie, an an­thro­pol­o­gist from Mex­ico and Eng­land who be­came a U.S. ci­ti­zen Tues­day, said she did not know about the de­tails of the part­ner­ship but sup­ports poli­cies that make it easier for res­i­dents to earn their cit­i­zen­ship.

“In my neigh­bor­hood in Columbia Heights, I have many neigh­bors who I know find the process scary and con­fus­ing,” said Athie, 35, who moved to the District in 2013 and said she ap­plied for cit­i­zen­ship so she could be able to en­gage in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.