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Smart Cities: Shepherding the Voiceless

San Francisco charts a pathway to citizenship. 


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Of San Francisco’s 800,000-plus people, a staggering 100,000 are eligible to become citizens but have not applied—meaning that one in eight San Franciscans is a legal immigrant who can’t vote, hold a federal job, or easily bring family members into the United States.

To address the situation, San Francisco’s Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs has partnered with 11 community-based service providers and local foundations to form Pathways to Citizenship, an initiative that helps eligible aspiring citizens navigate the complicated naturalization process. At Pathways’ free bimonthly workshops, interpreters and lawyers determine eligibility, help qualified immigrants apply for citizenship on the spot, and provide other assistance.

A large proportion of Pathways’ user base consists of Chinese residents, many of whom immigrated to San Francisco under family reunification laws. In the initiative’s first year, it helped 1,500 immigrants apply— more than half of them are now citizens. 


Originally published in the June issue of San Francisco

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