As you cast your vote in the Nov. 5 local election for city councilors, community college board and public school board members, you will be part of a strong New Mexico tradition of public participation, especially in our state and local democratic processes. As an immigrant-welcoming county and city, Santa Fe is ensuring that his tradition continues in the story of our immigrant population of workers, families and volunteers who are vital to New Mexico communities.
Somos Un Pueblo Unido, an immigrant rights organization, leads a community partnership called Citizenship Now. Somos has secured funding from the National Partnership for New Americans and local donors to assist immigrants in navigating the naturalization process to U.S. citizenship. As one of 90 U.S. mayors of cities funded to increase naturalization in their communities, Mayor Alan Webber chairs the Santa Fe partnership.
In Santa Fe County, there are approximately 4,000 legal permanent residents who are eligible to become U.S. citizens, according to the University of Southern California’s Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration. Census data also shows that naturalized citizens are 30 percent more likely to be homeowners than noncitizens, have higher incomes and spending power, and generate more taxes.
Citizenship Now partners are: Somos Un Pueblo Unido; the city of Santa Fe; Guadalupe Credit Union; Adelante; Literacy Volunteers of Santa Fe; Northern New Mexico Central Labor Council; Santa Fe Area Homebuilders Association; New Mexico Immigrant Law Center; Santa Fe Neighborhood Law Center; and the Santa Fe Public Library. The successful efforts of these partners resulted in funding for a second year of this partnership.
In its first year, Citizenship Now signed up 130 people for the program, placing them on the path to become citizens as part of five cohorts. Five have completed the entire process and have taken the oath.
Somos Un Pueblo Unido and its local partners have held eight naturalization forums in Santa Fe. Guadalupe Credit Union created a new low-interest loan product to help applicants cover their fees. Literacy Volunteers of Santa Fe volunteers are conducting exam and interview preparation for 25 participants and have created a new program just for Citizenship Now to provide tutoring in Spanish and English for older applicants eligible to do interviews in their native language. This fall, the Santa Fe Public Library will add Citizenship & Census Corners at every public library. For more information on Citizenship Now, visit somosunpueblounido.org.
Toney Anaya is a former governor of New Mexico and champion of immigrant rights, voter rights and efforts to increase participation in our democracy.