The City of New York is proud to honor immigrant New Yorkers who have chosen to become citizens. On Citizenship Day, which is this Tuesday, Sept. 17, we will commemorate the fifth anniversary of Cities for Citizenship. This national initiative — chaired by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti — encourages cities and counties across the country to promote naturalization and citizenship programs for immigrants. C4C has grown from just three founding cities in 2014 to 85 municipalities across the country.
New York has always been the ultimate city of immigrants. People of all backgrounds from every corner of the globe have arrived in our five boroughs to make a better life for themselves and their families for well over a century. Now more than ever, it’s essential that we encourage our city’s immigrant residents to take that last step toward citizenship.
In today’s climate, it is essential to highlight that immigration does not undermine American success. Increasing immigrant access to citizenship has been shown to lead to better-paying jobs, increased political participation and a higher gross domestic product.
Naturalization also benefits NYC as a whole. A report commissioned by my agency, the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, found that if all eligible legal permanent residents in our city naturalized, annual city, state and federal tax revenue would rise by $800 million. When cities promote naturalization for those who are eligible, we have the potential to harness the full economic contribution of immigrants and stimulate economic development in our local communities.
This is why Mayor de Blasio and NYC have played such a critical role in founding and growing C4C. From coast to coast, municipal leaders, community groups and the private sector are now collaborating on initiatives like ours to expand outreach, provide legal assistance and financial coaching, and offer civics and English language classes — such as our We Speak NYC program — to promote naturalization.
On Citizenship Day, I want to tell the staggering 40 percent of our city’s residents who are immigrants that wherever you come from, wherever you’re going, your story is the story of this city and of this nation. It was immigrants who made this city what it is today and it was immigrants who built the world’s greatest economy.
If you’re a New Yorker interested in becoming a U.S. citizen, I encourage you to take advantage of the City’s NYCitizenship program, which provides free legal help with citizenship applications and financial counseling at select public libraries. You can set up an appointment to meet with a trusted legal representative for free at a library near you to find out if you may be eligible for a full or partial citizenship application fee waiver. To learn more about this program, visit nyc.gov/citizenship.
I want to thank every immigrant New Yorker, no matter where you are along the path to citizenship, for being a vital part of our communities and carrying on the legacy of generations of people who came here to follow their dreams and contribute to an open and welcoming America that values equality.
Happy five-year anniversary to Cities for Citizenship!
Bitta Mostofi is Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.