Foundation pledges $1 million to aid local citizenship

2013-04-23T17:26:00Z 2013-04-24T16:58:49Z Foundation pledges $1 million to aid local citizenshipKERANA TODOROV Napa Valley Register
April 23, 2013 5:26 pm  • 

The Napa Valley Community Foundation on Tuesday announced a $1 million grant to help thousands of legal immigrants in Napa become U.S. citizens.

According to a 2012 study commissioned by the foundation, there were about 9,000 legal permanent residents in Napa County eligible to become citizens.

With comprehensive immigration reform on the horizon, there could be another 10,000 to 15,000 people who now live in the shadows who will have a lawful pathway to citizenship, said Terence Mulligan, the group’s executive director.

The nonprofit’s focus on naturalization — the One Napa Valley Initiative — is an outgrowth of the nonprofit’s release in 2012 of a study on the economic and fiscal impact of immigration in Napa County, Mulligan said.

Citizenship leads to greater engagement in the community and other benefits, including higher family income and higher education and a more engaged community, he said in a news release. “When they naturalize, good things happen for their families and good things happen for the community at large.”

The $1 million grant will be used for outreach, education and application assistance and other legal immigration-related services delivered by community nonprofit organizations with expertise in immigration services and a trusted relationship with the mostly Spanish-speaking immigrant community, he explained. The One Napa Valley Initiative is expected to last three years.

The One Napa Valley group will partner with the International Institute of the Bay Area, a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco that focuses on immigration issues. Napa partners include Legal Aid of Napa Valley, On The Move/McPherson Family Resource Center and Puertas Abiertas Community Resource Center.

Napa County and its wine industry are heavily dependent on immigrant labor. According to the 2012 report, immigrants make up 33 percent of the local workforce and 73 percent of all agricultural workers in the county.

“This is a big day for our community,” U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, said in a written statement. “Immigrants are an important part of Napa Valley’s history, culture and economy. As Congress considers comprehensive immigration reform, it’s important that local groups like Napa Valley Community Foundation make investments in our community that benefit immigrants and non-immigrants alike.”

One barrier to citizenship has been the scarcity of immigration services in Napa County, which has no organization certified by the Board of Immigration Appeals, the division of the U.S.. Department of Justice that interprets immigration laws, according to Mulligan.

Another barrier is the cost. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the filing fee is now a minimum of $595, though military applicants are exempt.

“The naturalization process is very complex, and people going through this process often need assistance,” said Rejane Brito, executive director of Puertas Abiertas Community Resource Center.  “There is very little low-cost, legally based naturalization infrastructure in Napa County. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services Department strongly recommends that people seeking assistance with naturalization (citizenship application) work with an immigration attorney or a nonprofit which has been recognized by the Board of Immigration Appeals.

“Our One Napa Valley collaborative will make (Board of Immigration)-accredited representatives and immigration attorneys available to those seeking assistance to naturalize,” she said in an email.

“We are currently in the planning process for the scope of activities and the allocation of funding has not yet been decided. But the grant will enable the One Napa Valley collaborative to provide legally based naturalization services in Napa County,” Brito said.

 Ellen Dumesnil, executive director of International Institute of the Bay Area, estimates the application-to-naturalization process takes a minimum of three months.

Immigrants who become naturalized feel more a part of the community, Dumesnil said. “I think it’s a good thing for the individual and it’s a good thing for the broader community,” she said.

The One Napa Valley Initiative has been funded by contributions from nearly 70 individuals, families, businesses and foundations in Napa County, including The Michael & Isabel Mondavi Family Foundation, John and Barbara Shafer, Bob Torres, Silver Oak Cellars, The Rick Jones Family Fund, and The Clif Bar Family Foundation, the Community Foundation said.

 Napa Valley Community Foundation has established a special fund, called the One Napa Valley Initiative Fund, to collect additional donations for the project.

To learn more or make a contribution, visit napavalleycf.org.

The Napa Valley Community Foundation is a nonprofit organization which has distributed more than $30 million in private funding since 1994, according to a news release.


The April 24 print edition of the Napa Valley Register included a version of this story that contained an error. The foundation's initiative seeks to assist thousands of legal immigrants in Napa County become U.S. citizens.

Copyright 2015 Napa Valley Register. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(8) Comments

  1. freeport56
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    freeport56 - April 24, 2013 7:34 am
    I am very disappointed in the Foundation and the supporters of this effort. I just do not and never will support rewarding those that break the Law! With teen/minority unemployment, local non-profit organizations hurting for donations, the incredible competition for jobs just increases.

    I in good conscious cannot support the foundation or these donors misguided use of these funds !
  2. Wineandfood
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    Wineandfood - April 24, 2013 10:40 am
    freeport - then I suggest you stop eating Californian grown fruits and vegetables, stop eating out at restaurants and staying in hotels. That's how you stop supporting them. And if you do any of the above, then you actually do support them. Stop speaking about your good conscious and start acting. Until then, the rest of us will move on with a solution. Thank you Community Foundation for the great report you published, and this next step in being part fo the solution.
  3. bluecollardoctor
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    bluecollardoctor - April 24, 2013 10:56 am
    It was a long boring article but I think it said that the focus of the grant will be on Legal Permanent Residents, not illegals. I hope this is true.
  4. napa1957
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    napa1957 - April 24, 2013 6:41 pm
    bluecollar is right, it did say that this funding is going to legal permanent residents, but it also left open the possiblilty of funding "another 10,000 to 15,000 (currently undocumented) who will have a lawful pathway to citizenship." As far as I'm concerned, if private money is used, then it's up to those whose money it is to decide how they want to gift it. If it's a "grant" or tax money coming from the Feds or the State, then I should have a voice in how it's spent. I always wonder how we, in the past. have managed to farm and feed our populace without the services of the millions of illegal immigrants that now reside here. Hospitality (hotel maids etc.) and food service (fast food, catering, waiting tables) jobs have traditionally been entry level or part time jobs for students. The demographic has changed considerably.
  5. oldtimenapa
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    oldtimenapa - April 24, 2013 8:33 pm
    That what they should spend their money on. Not the kids that are from here that their parents are from here..if they are here legally already why do they need help. Oh thats right cheap labor. Give more to the people that are hleeding the system. If they cant afford the 595 how can they afford the 5 kids and and the exspensive rims on their escalade.why do we cater to the Mexicans. This country has never catered to any nationallity more then them. Why? Hell the don't even have to speak english.now you people that were born here to legal citizen's and your grand parent and greatgrand parents learned english paid taxes fought in world wars you don't need any help
  6. oldtimenapa
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    oldtimenapa - April 24, 2013 10:24 pm
    Parents made their kids get jobs instead of handing them everything. In construction its mostly mexican its become reverse discrimanation. Your white your the guy thats gone first. They take care 8f their own. Had it happen to me. They don't want to become citizens. Years ago people were proud to be in america and becoming american. Not now. Why do we wont to reward people that are here illegal.
  7. publiusa
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    publiusa - April 25, 2013 10:21 am
    This nothing more than a tax loophole by wealth liberals who donate money for a tax deduction. These "non profits" are set up under IRC 501c3. The money therefore comes from our government's tax revenueand is disguised as a government donative indulgence to buy their vote to he Democrat party.
  8. tripnote
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    tripnote - April 25, 2013 10:42 am
    Wineandfood is correct, without "them" (because that's the best description...) we Californians would all starve.
    Now I know why everyone is so skinny in China, they don't have "them"
    I like to eat, so I guess an open boarder system would bring me lots more food and wine. We shouldn't be so greedy with "them", I'm sure the rest of the world would love to have vibrant restaurants hotels, fruits and vegetables.
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