A Collaborative Approach to Immigrant Integration.

October 9, 2013

By Aida Cardenas

The August 24th Citizenshp Drive registration desk

On August 24th, Building Skills Partnership collaborated with CHIRLA (Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles) to host a Citizenship Drive in Los Angeles, where volunteers and attorneys assisted more than 50 low-wage building service workers and other immigrant community members apply for their citizenship. This was in response to a growing need for immigrant integration services, which include citizenship application assistance and English language acquisition.

Building Skills Partnership effectively integrates immigrants through a partnership that includes employers, labor, educational institutions, foundations and other community based organizations. Created out of a labor management partnership, Building Skills Partnership has the ability to access thousands of hard working immigrants at many worksites throughout Los Angeles County. This program is

Assistrance with citizenship applications was provided on site

unique as it makes every effort to eliminate the multiple barriers that contribute to immigrant workers obtaining training and advancement opportunities.Building Skills Partnership recognizes the value and contributions that immigrants play in our regional economy and community. Research by USC’s Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration demonstrates that naturalization leads to better economic opportunities and an increase in civic engagement[1].  More specifically, citizenship can boost individual earnings by 8-11%[2].

In Los Angeles, low-wage building service workers have demonstrated the need for access to skills training and immigrant integration services, where immigrants already constitute for almost half of the workforce. With over 60% of the county’s immigrant workers struggling with English[3] and over 800,000 Legal Permanent Residents eligible to naturalize[4], English language acquisition and civic engagement initiatives become a critical strategy for the integration of immigrant workers and the economic prosperity of the region.

Silvina and her family

The success of this event demonstrates the desire of legal permanent residents, who are eligible to naturalize, ready to fully participate in the civic life of Los Angeles. Thanks to a partnership and a donation from Pan American Bank, janitor Silvina Lopez won a scholarship of $680 to cover the cost of submitting her citizenship application. Silvina arrived in Los Angeles in 1986 and wanted to become a naturalized citizen, however, she faced many of the challenges that other low-wage immigrant workers face, such as minimal English language skills and knowledge of U.S. civics, lack of information about the naturalization process, and the increasingly high cost of fees associated with the naturalization application. These challenges prevented Silvina from reaching her American Dream.  Silvina says, “Becoming a naturalized citizen will finally give me the ability to vote, which is something I strongly believe in, and allow me to be an example to my children.”

Aida Cardenas is the executive director of Building Skills Partnership

[1] Pastor, Manuel, and Justin Scoggins. The Economic Benets of Naturalization for Immigrants and the Economy. Http://csii.usc.edu/documents/citizen_gain_web.pdf. USC’s Center for Study of Immigrant Integration

[2] Pastor, Manuel, and Justin Scoggins. The Economic Benets of Naturalization for Immigrants and the Economy. Http://csii.usc.edu/documents/citizen_gain_web.pdf. USC’s Center for Study of Immigrant Integration

[3] “Shortage of Skilled Workers Looms in U.S.” Los  Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 21 Apr. 2008. Web. 04 Oct. 2013.

[4] The Case for Citizenship and a Coordinated Statewide Funding Strategy. Rep. Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees, n.d. Web. 04 Oct. 2013.

One Response
  1. Pan American Bank was honored to have had the opportunity to participate in this great event. We were so pleased to see so many participants. Naturalization is a great benefit not only relative to civic engagement and voting but also as a means to a better life for lawful permanent residents seeking the American Dream. Thank you for hosting.


    Jesse Torres
    President and CEO
    Pan American Bank

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