Drive To Increase Citizenship Applications Kicks Off

With Knight Foundation support, the New Americans Campaign will target immigrants in eight cities, home to 40 percent of permanent residents eligible for citizenship

A campaign to assist qualifying legal residents to become U.S. citizens kicked off recently and will provide $20 million worth of legal aid, mostly in major cities.

The New Americans Campaign is a non-partisan effort to push more than eight million green card holders towards citizenship by "modernizing" the naturalization process and making it accessible.

The campaign will partner with local libraries, schools, businesses and faith-based groups to build awareness and promote new online tools such as the CitizenshipWorks website. They will also coordinate pro-bono legal help.

"The more our communities harness the civic and economic participation of new citizens, the stronger and more vital we will be as a nation," Eric Cohen, executive director of the Immigrant Resources Legal Center, said in a statement.

Eight cities will be targeted by the campaign. They include Charlotte, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York and San Jose. About 3.3 million, or about 40 percent of citizenship-eligible residents live in these areas.

Doris Meissner and James Ziglar, two former Immigration and Naturalization Service commissioners who served under Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and are now at the Migration Policy Institute, are supporting the effort.

On average roughly 680,000 residents naturalize every year. That number increases before an election. In 2011, roughly 750,000 immigrants applied for citizenship.

Read more at ABC News.com

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.