LOS ANGELESE: US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has launched a campaign emphasising the benefits of being a US citizen with the goal of convincing more than seven million Green Card holders to become naturalised.
"It's very important for people who are already permanent residents to consider citizenship for all the benefits that that will bring them," Mariana Gitomer, the USCIS spokesperson in Los Angeles, told EFE.
The Citizen Public Education and Awareness Initiative will include radio and television advertisements, written press and Internet dissemination nationwide.
The messages will be broadcast in Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese and English with special emphasis on the cities of Los Angeles and New York, and also on the states of Florida and Texas, where there are high numbers of permanent residents.
The first sentence of the message in Spanish, which will be spoken by an Hispanic woman, states: "I was born in Mexico and being an American citizen makes me proud."
"The campaign will last for three years and the funds, which amount to $11 million, are coming from an allocation made by the federal Congress in Fiscal Year 2010," Gitomer said.
"We're going to channel part of those funds to community organisations that help immigrants so they can help us to educate and convince people to become citizens," she added.
The USCIS spokesperson said that, according to the government's database, there are about 12.5 million permanent residents in the US, of whom 7.9 million are already eligible to get US citizenship, the majority of them being Hispanics.
In California alone, there are approximately three million people who obtained Green Cards more than five years ago.
"There are many reasons why people don't become citizens, some people don't know the benefits and feel that if they already have a residence card they can work, they can travel, then they feel they don't need citizenship," said Gitomer.
"But citizenship gives them the benefit of voting, obtaining a US passport to travel without restrictions, obtain better jobs," she said, citing studies that show that people who become citizens began to earn more money