Breaking Down Barriers to Naturalization: The Biden Administration’s Progress
By: Hannah Welbourn
With his first year in office officially halfway through, President Joe Biden has made it clear that one of the administration’s biggest goals regarding immigration is to promote naturalization.
Earlier this month, the Department of Homeland Security announced a campaign aimed at recruiting new citizens and making the naturalization process more accessible. The campaign is headed by the Biden-appointed Interagency Working Group on Promoting Naturalization (also referred to as the Naturalization Working Group or NWG) and is in accordance with the executive order Biden enacted in February, which included calls to shorten naturalization processing times, reduce the naturalization fee, and reinstate a fee waiver. The executive order also called upon the NGW to develop welcoming and inclusive strategies that eliminate fear and restore trust in the legal immigration system.
The campaign includes several community outreach initiatives–on community, state, and federal levels–aimed toward lawful permanent residents (LPRs) and those still early in the immigration process. The goal is to educate immigrants on the resources available for becoming citizens, as well as break down Trump-era barriers to these services. The outreach initiatives are also intended to build community for those on the path to citizenship, along with efforts to ensure the equity of underserved communities.
The NWG is considering expanding the number of languages that citizenship study materials are printed in. This would make these documents more accessible to immigrants from different countries, as currently, they are only available in Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, Tagalog, Korean, and Vietnamese. Additionally, the group is focused on making educational materials available to immigrants, including a glossary of legal terms used in forms throughout the naturalization process.
Shortly after the campaign was announced, Biden hosted a naturalization ceremony–the first held on White House grounds since the 2020 Republican National Convention–and 21 new citizens were officially sworn in. The president thanked these new citizens, adding: “All of you represent how immigration has always been essential to America. We’re constantly renewing ourselves.”
Furthermore, the president has made it clear that he is also focused on Dreamers, those who arrived as children and are protected under the Obama-era DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program. While it is still unclear whether DACA funding will be included in the Democrat’s $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation measure, Biden has urged Congress to preserve the program and create a pathway to citizenship, which it does not currently include.
President Biden is certainly still trying to deliver on the initiatives he set early on in his term and the recent developments seem to be a step in the right direction.
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