Every year, over 650,000 immigrants take the momentous step of becoming U.S. citizens. In doing so, they pledge their allegiance to the United States because they believe in its core values of freedom and opportunity and in the democratic principles upon which our Nation was founded. For many of these new citizens, one of the most significant challenges they have had to overcome to build a new life in America and to pass the naturalization test was to learn English. My parents came to the United States as immigrants, so I know from personal experience how important it is to support new immigrants as they strive to learn a new language and integrate into American society.
I am therefore extremely pleased that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is expanding its multilingual outreach by hosting public sessions in Mandarin and Cantonese to help Chinese-speaking immigrants learn how to apply for citizenship and immigration benefits. The first of these Chinese public engagements, called “Jiao Liú” (which means “engagement” in Mandarin), will be held on Thursday, February 16, at 10:30 a.m. (PST) in the USCIS San Francisco District Office. The theme of this first session will be “How to Become a U.S. Citizen.” Please click here to learn how you can watch and ask questionsin person or via the internet or telephone.
This initiative is particularly important, because we are a nation of immigrants that has always drawn renewed strength from the talents, sacrifices, and diversity of its newest Americans. According to the U.S. Census, from 2000 to 2010, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) were the fastest growing minority group in the United States, and people of Chinese descent make up close to a quarter of the nearly 14 million AAPIs in this country. Indeed, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimates that more than 1 million AAPI legal permanent residents are eligible to naturalize, and 220,000 of those are of Chinese origin.
As a project undertaken in support of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, the USCIS “Jiao Liú” program also demonstrates the federal government’s broad commitment to engage with AAPI communities. As the DHS representative to the White House Initiative, I take great pride in this new program and all of the other ways that our government is striving to ensure that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have every opportunity to succeed in America and contribute to its future.
Ivan Fong is General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and serves as the DHS representative to the Interagency Working Group for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.