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Coalition Seeks To Increase Citizenship Applications

Aired 2/8/12 on KPBS News.

In the run-up to this year's elections, a nonprofit coalition has said it will work to get more eligible immigrants to apply for U.S. citizenship.

— In the run-up to this year's elections, six San Diego nonprofits have said they'll work together to increase the number of eligible permanent residents applying to become U.S. citizens.

The coalition includes nonprofits with a heavy presence in local immigrant communities, including Catholic Charities, the International Rescue Committee, and Legal Aid Society of San Diego.

The groups will host several joint events for immigrants to find out if they qualify to be citizens, and provide lawyers to help them complete applications on the spot.

The group estimates there are 150,000 permanent residents in San Diego County eligible for citizenship, but that only about ten percent of that number apply each year.

“People just don’t feel that it’s something that is accessible to them," said Alor Calderon, a director at the Employee Rights Center, another of the nonprofits. That's in part due to the extensive questionnaire required as part of the application, he said. "And especially because having to pay the fees for an immigration attorney makes it just very, very difficult.”

Participants will still pay the $680 government application fee, but not for the lawyers’ help.

The group hopes to naturalize 1,000 people by November’s election, beginning with its first event at San Diego City College on February 25.

More information is available at www.YouAreAmerica.org.

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