Washington State has approximately 170,000 legal permanent residents eligible for citizenship, who have not yet naturalized because of numerous barriers, such as prohibitive costs, access to legal services, and fear of the process. The Washington New Americans (WNA) program is a partnership between the State of Washington and OneAmerica designed to help immigrants overcome these barriers. Our goal is to promote successful immigrant integration by connecting eligible Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs or “green card” holders) to the information and services they need to successfully pursue citizenship and become active members of our community.
We work in partnership with the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and community organizations to provide the following services at no cost:
- Information about the naturalization process
- Citizenship application assistance
- Legal review of applications by a volunteer attorney or accredited representative
Citizenship Day is an all-day opportunity for eligible legal permanent residents to receive high-quality citizenship assistance from volunteer attorneys, paralegals, interpreters and community members. Citizenship Day helps immigrant families who wouldn’t be able to afford the help of a private attorney and brings experienced legal help to areas where few citizenship assistance resources exist.
Together, WNA and AILA’s Washington Chapter – whose initial Citizenship Day has become a nationwide model – have served over 2,000 legal permanent residents from Pasco to Port Angeles.
Find out more about OneAmerica's Washington New Americans Program.
New American Success Stories
Miriam has always been active in her community. She was forced to flee her native Honduras in fear for her life because of her work as a union organizer. Since she came to the U.S., she finds time to volunteer with her church and in her community while caring for her grandchildren and going back to school.
Miriam, who was granted political asylum after a long battle, couldn't wait to become a citizen of the country that offered her safe haven. However, she was struggling to support her family, couldn't afford legal help, and was afraid to apply without a lawyer's help because she feared making a mistake and being deported.
Then she discovered the Washington New Americans (WNA) program and attended a Citizenship Day clinic. The volunteer attorneys checked her case and helped her fill out her application that very day.
After Citizenship Day, Miriam wanted to lend a helping hand to others. She began helping answer the WNA Citizenship hotline and spreading the word in her community. She is practicing her English for her interview with OneAmerica's English Innovations program and using her new computer skills to study U.S. laws and the candidates for the 2012 election. Miriam says she can't wait to vote and raise her voice for those in her community who can't speak up for themselves.
Hanh is a 36-year-old mother of two who immigrated from Vietnam nearly twelve years ago. She originally became a lawful permanent resident through her husband. Soon after their marriage began, Hanh's husband became abusive, but for years she was too afraid to leave him because she did not want to lose her children or her home in this country she loves. A friend helped Hanh find a domestic violence survivor program and she gathered the courage to leave her husband.
She was struggling to make ends meet on her salary alone and working hard to rebuild her and her children's lives. Hanh wanted to go back to school and become a medical assistant, but as a legal permanent resident, she couldn't qualify for many federal aid programs. She wanted to become a citizen so she could go back to school, but she couldn't afford an attorney and she was too afraid to fill out the forms alone. Hanh thought that citizenship was out of her reach.
Then, Hanh saw a flyer for the Washington New Americans program at her church. She attended the program's Citizenship Day clinic in Tukwila, Washington in November 2011 where a volunteer attorney from the American Immigration Lawyers Association helped her complete her naturalization application.
She didn’t qualify for a fee waiver and the $680 application fee was still too much of a burden for her. However, a WNA volunteer helped her apply for a microloan that would cover her fee and even provide her with a $150 bonus savings account after she paid her loan back on time. Hanh filed her application and is anxiously awaiting her upcoming appointment for biometrics. She says she is excited and proud to become an American citizen and return to school so she can be a good role model for her kids.
Eugenio Chavez-Ramos came to Tacoma Community House (TCH) on January 6, 2011 to apply for his naturalization. At that time, Eugenio had been an LPR for almost 10 years. The major barrier for Eugenio was the Naturalization fee of $680. He is married with three minor children and his wife is a naturalized citizen.
Since 2002, Eugenio has worked at Cascade Capital as a wood cutter. During his long-term employment at Cascade Capital he proved to be reliable and valuable worker. When his employer became aware of the barrier to naturalization Eugenio was facing, they decided to pay the fee of $680 on his behalf!
Eugenio completed the screening and a draft of the N-400 in January of 2011. He delivered the check for $680 issued by his employer to the Department of Homeland Security to TCH on February 7 and WNA helped complete and mail his application that same day. The biometrics appointment was scheduled on April 6 and the interview and Oath Ceremony took place on May 19. Congratulations to Eugenio on becoming a U.S. citizen!