King County’s collaboration with the national campaign to naturalize two million immigrants could generate up to $867 million in additional earnings for Washington’s economy, a refugee advocacy organization claims.
A panel that included Director of the Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs (OIRA) Hamdi Mohamed, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell, King County Executive Dow Constantine and Executive Director of OneAmerica Roxana Norouzi talked up their collaborative efforts to help naturalize immigrants in King County and across the U.S. in an April 20 press conference.
OIRA has two citizenship programs that focus on providing services to eligible residents that work in partnership with local non-profit organizations. The agency’s collaboration with OneAmerica, the largest immigrant and refugee advocacy organization in Washington state, could offer citizenship services in programs that help immigrants achieve naturalization in the U.S.
This aid to immigrants would come through legal advice and workshops to help with the naturalization application process. OneAmerica has helped over 1,200 of clients naturalize over the past two years, the group said.
OneAmerica’s Norouzi said that giving citizenship to immigrants creates positives for the rest of the community.
“Research points to the positive impacts of citizenship on increasing wages and lowering poverty rates,” Norouzi said. “In addition naturalization leads to better jobs, higher rates of home-ownership, access to federally-funded programs and employment and full civic engagement for new Americans.”
According to Norouzi, there are around 263,000 permanent residents eligible to naturalize in the state of Washington in the coming years.
Norouzi said “if all eligible permanent residents in Washington naturalize, they could generate $867 million in additional earnings for [Washington’s] economy.”
Seattle City Councilmember Tammy Morales spoke about her district’s diverse demographic, which covers South Seattle and the International District. Many residents in Morale’s district have originated outside the U.S.
“Over 65% of households in my district speak a language other than English at home, so my colleagues and I in the [City Council] will continue to champion naturalization services,” Councilmember Morales said.
King County Executive Dow Constantine said that the county has invested $16 million in its immigrant relief fund in June 2021. Constantine also mentioned that immigrants have also been provided services. For instance, the county has paid for free dental care to patients regardless of their immigration status to “help ensure that every person could stay healthy.”
Among the estimated 263,000 Washington residents eligible to naturalize, King County alone has 75,000 eligible residents.
This article was originally posted on King County joins national effort to naturalize two million immigrants