Harris County Announces Leading Investment in U.S. Citizenship

22 Jan, 24

Houston – Naturalize Now, Houston! That’s the message local government and civic partners are sending to 300,000 lawful permanent residents in the region, who are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship, and haven’t already.

On Thursday, January 18, 2024 - Harris County Commissioners Garcia and Briones along with several of their community partners announced its contribution to the initiative: a $5 million investment in legal services, English language instruction, and more for eligible lawful permanent residents with lower incomes (county residents earning 65% of the Area Median Income, or less, depending on household size).

Houstonians have expressed that access to legal advice, and the $725 application fee, are two hurdles that prevent people who are eligible for citizenship from applying. Public-private partnership will remove those roadblocks so that everyone who is eligible for citizenship can apply. The goal is to turn greater Houston into the Citizenship Capital of the nation.

“Far too many people in our region face barriers to naturalization even though they are eligible. The process is long, expensive, and complicated. I’m thankful to the Houston Endowment for their tremendous generosity and the Biden Administration for the American Rescue Plan Act funding that allowed Harris County to make these investments with partnership organizations. By working together to increase access to naturalization services in Harris County, we are one step closer to making the American Dream an American Reality,” said Commissioner Briones.

Harris County is partnering with Baker Ripley, Galveston-Houston Immigration Representation Project (GHIRP), Tahirih Justice Center, and Justice for All Immigrants (JFAI) to expand free access to legal support, English classes, and help filing waivers of the federal naturalization application fee. This is part of a joint initiative with the City of Houston, National Partnership for New Americans, Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative, and several area nonprofits, called “Naturalize Now, Houston!” 

Added Nicole Melaku, Executive Director of National Partnership for New Americans, “As the daughter and granddaughter of naturalized citizens, I know how transformative naturalization can be for families and communities. With U.S. citizenship comes stability, and greater job opportunities. It’s a step closer to achieving your goals and dreams, whether that’s owning a home, starting a business, or earning an advanced degree. Citizenship is an investment in yourself as well as your community. NPNA is proud to work with committed local governments and expert community service providers in greater Houston. Together, we can turn Houston into the Citizenship Capital of the United States and set a standard for the rest of the country to follow.”

For information on Harris County programs, visit csd.harriscountytx.gov. To learn more about the Naturalize Now, Houston! Effort, see houston.naturalizenow.org.