Councilor Deqa Dhalac requested the city sign on to the Cities for Citizenship Initiative at the July 16 South Portland City Council meeting. On Aug. 6, the city unanimously approved a resolve to join the initiative. Dhalac said South Portland’s participation will be a point of pride. (Courtesy photo)

SOUTH PORTLAND — South Portland will join 25 other cities and counties in the Cities for Citizenship initiative, which will allow the city to promote the naturalization of immigrants in South Portland.

At the Aug. 6 South Portland City Council meeting, the council voted unanimously to join Cities for Citizenship, which is a national initiative to encourage U.S. ommunities to support citizenship and financial empowerment for legal residents.

Councilor Deqa Dhalac requested that South Portland sign on as a member at the July 16 council meeting. The initiative is supported by the National Partnership for New Americans and exists to support municipal governments in initiating or enhancing citizenship programs in their cities by encouraging eligible residents to apply for citizenship.

“There are currently several million lawful permanent residents eligible to naturalize across the United States,” the city’s resolve to join the initiative said. “Yet each year fewer than 9 percent of those who are eligible to naturalize apply for citizenship.”

Dhalac said that the initiative will give the South Portland the opportunity to collaborate with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

“Folks will be able be sworn in here in our city,” Dhalac said. “It will be a thing of pride.”

Upon joining the initiative, South Portland committed to several actions, such as building relationships with community organizations that promote naturalization and providing information and resources pertinent to citizenship and naturalization at city hall, the library, and online.

South Portland also committed to making its chambers and some buildings and public venues available for citizenship oath ceremonies and other naturalization related events.

South Portland City Clerk Emily Scully said that she believes it may be helpful to offer brochures and pamphlets at City Hall.

“This office is the first ‘point of contact’ for many members of the public,” Scully said.

Director of Social Services Kathleen Babeu asked the city to let her know how best to support the initiative.

South Portland Public Library Director Kevin Davis said the library is proud to be a part of the community and its resolution to join the initiative.

“As a conduit for the city, we try to provide all individuals with whatever information they need,” Davis said. “We hope the library will always be space where people feel safe and welcome.”

Currently, the library has a table set up with books for new Americans and English as a Second Language citizens. Davis expects to collaborate with officials in providing naturalization information.

Through promoting the expansion of naturalization, Cities for Citizens and South Portland are promoting the expansion of financial empowerment for immigrants and their communities.

Naturalization would allow the 8.8 million legal permanent residents in America eligible for citizenship to access higher paying jobs with up to an 11 percent increase on potential earnings, academic scholarships and other benefits.

— Evelyn Waugh can be reached at [email protected] or 780- 9026.

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