Posted by Ena Feinberg, Director of New American Services

Not a day goes by when I don't get a call from a person requesting English as a Second Language (ESL) or naturalization classes. Unfortunately, we have been able to offer very little assistance in this area because of lack of funding. We are a country of immigrants and becoming a citizen is a very important milestone in an immigrant's life. We want to be able to help those who wish to become citizens succeed at this endeavor. Therefore, New American Services is thrilled to be able to announce that we have received a one-year grant of $99,554.00 from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to develop and implement a "Citizenship and Integration Direct Services Grant Program." USCIS announced this funding on September 17, 2010, for 75 organizations.

In practical terms, we will be focusing on providing classes for persons who want to become citizens. The first level of classes is ESL. These classes will especially emphasize language skills needed to take the next level of classes on the road to citizenship, which are citizenship preparation classes that include American history, government structure, civics, and other naturalization related issues. We will be hiring one program coordinator who can also teach ESL classes, and I will teach the citizenship preparation classes.

What may be something of a surprise is that most of the clients we will serve in this program will not be Russian speaking. In FY 2009, the top countries for naturalization in the United States were in the following order: Mexico, India, Philippines, China, and Vietnam. In our New American Resettlement Program we, too, have been working with people granted asylum who are not Russian speaking. The list of countries we have been working with includes but is not limited to Cambodia, Ivory Coast, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Haiti, Cameroon, and Congo. We hope a lot of people will benefit from our efforts enabled by this grant.

Ena Feinberg is Director of New American Services. She came to the United States from Russia in 1987, after having been a refusenik for eight years. She has worked at JF&CS since January 1988.