S.F. launches program to help immigrants with naturalization process 

  • Alex Leber/Special to The S.F. Examiner

San Francisco’s 100,000 naturalization-eligible immigrants may soon get free help in obtaining U.S. citizenship under a new city program called Pathway to Citizenship.

The three-year program will get boots on the ground reaching out to eligible residents and offering free naturalization workshops, translation assistance and legal advice, said Adrienne Pon, executive director of The City’s Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs.

Attorneys also will be available to help sign up attendees for the citizenship process, she said.

“San Francisco is a model for the nation in welcoming immigrants and empowering new citizens, but we can do even better,” Mayor Ed Lee said Tuesday. “This initiative will ensure that the 100,000 San Franciscans who are eligible for citizenship can pursue new opportunities and be part of building San Francisco’s economy and civic life from the very beginning.”

All of the services are provided with translation in Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Russian and Vietnamese.

The program is a partnership between Lee, Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, and a range of community programs and leaders who will provide services — Self-Help for the Elderly, Asian Law Caucus, Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, Catholic Charities CYO, International Institute of the Bay Area, Jewish Family and Children’s Services, and La Raza Community Resource Center.

The first year will be a pilot phase to identify new approaches, methodologies and service delivery models to promote citizenship and civic participation among eligible immigrants, according to the Mayor’s Office.

A week and a half ago, a trial run of the program at UC Hastings College of the Law was attended by more than 300 potential new citizens, said Anoop Prasad, a staff attorney with the Asian Law Caucus.

“Critically, many immigrant communities are shut out of local elections and school board elections that affect them and their children,” Prasad said.

The program will be funded with grants from local foundations.

The next workshop will be Aug. 10 at 1 South Van Ness Ave., and they will be held monthly after that.

About The Author

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

Born and raised in San Francisco, Fitzgerald Rodriguez was a staff writer at the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and now writes the S.F. Examiner's political column On Guard. He is also a transportation beat reporter covering pedestrians, Muni, BART, bikes, and anything with wheels.
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