When President Obama announced his executive actions on Nov. 20, the two most controversial programs got the most attention. The expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the launch of Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA), which would temporarily protect millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation, were blocked from going into effect by a federal judge, a decision that is now being appealed.
But other actions announced by the president that day have gone into effect, and although they haven’t gotten as much attention, they could have an enormous impact on the 8.8 million legal permanent residents in the United States who are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship.
Among them is the establishment of the Task Force on New Americans, an interagency effort to develop a coordinated strategy to help integrate immigrants and refugees.
For the past few months, Task Force co-chairs Cecilia Muñoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, and León Rodríguez, director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), have been meeting with stakeholders and soliciting recommendations from the public in order to develop a “coordinated and deliberate” strategy on immigrant integration, according to Muñoz.
On Tuesday, the Task Force released a report to the White House that lays out core goals and recommended actions the federal government could take. These include elevating inspirational stories of new Americans; engaging in strategies to make sure eligible immigrants are aware of the benefits of citizenship; and expanding outreach and partnership with community organizations, philanthropic groups and the private sector.
The Task Force held a national call in January and three national listening sessions with a total of 1,000 participants. According to Rodriguez, the first major idea that came out of these sessions was the importance of maximizing traditional and social media outlets, specifically media that cater to immigrant communities, to reach new Americans and immigrants who are eligible to become U.S. citizens.
Other ideas included looking into creative ways to help cover the cost of naturalizing. Although the federal government does not plan to reduce the $680 fee, Rodriguez said they plan to work with the private sector on other ways to cover the costs, including grants and microloans.
In addition to the citizenship awareness campaign, the Task Force has agreements with Los Angeles, Chicago and Nashville, and plans to partner with other cities that are part of the Welcoming America movement in the coming months. It will also encourage new Americans to do community service and to learn more about how to start a business.
“The federal government has a lot of tools at its disposal,” said Muñoz. The goal of the Task Force, she said, is “to make sure we’re using those tools.”
New America Media is part of the New Americans Campaign, a national network of legal-service providers, faith-based organizations, businesses, foundations and community leaders that aims to make naturalization more accessible. For more information about the New Americans Campaign, go to www.newamericanscampaign.org.