Mitra Shavarini, executive director of Project Citizenship, calls for the removal of financial barriers to US citizenship in an op-Ed published in Commonwealth Magazine. Shavarini cites a survey conducted by One Percent for America (OPA), BlueHub's newest nonprofit initiative, that found that citizenship application fees discourage many people from even beginning an application.
"Of those who do apply, 87 percent borrowed money to pay the fees, and two-thirds used high-interest credit cards or payday lenders. The affordability of the citizenship process has been largely overlooked in immigration policy debates, thereby leaving millions of immigrants unable to fully engage in our civic and economic life. Their exclusion weakens the fabric of democracy, and that impacts all of us," says Shavarini.
OPA participated in Citizenship Day, an event hosted by Project Citizenship and the City of Boston’s Office for Immigrant Advancement, where immigrants are offered assistance in completing their citizenship applications.
"Since 2014, over 2,600 people were connected with legal and financial resources on Citizenship Day. This year, attendees were able to take advantage of One Percent for America’s new 1 percent loan to immigrants applying for citizenship that covers their application fees. As a result, 11 more people during that one event applied to be US citizens. One Percent for America loans exemplify a creative financing approach that can help increase naturalization rates because it is set up to be flexible and self-sustaining. Supporters from across the country are invited to lend or donate, and funds are recycled as borrowers pay back their loans, which allows additional loans to immigrants. It’s the kind of solution that works only when the private, public, and nonprofit sectors are aligned," says Shavarini in the op-Ed.