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Memorandum on Naturalization

August 22, 1996

Memorandum for the Attorney General, Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Other Heads of Executive Agencies

Subject: Naturalization

Citizenship is the cornerstone of full participation in our democracy. To become a United States citizen through naturalization represents a pledge to undertake the responsibilities of being a full member of our national community.

Naturalization is the best example of our legal immigration system at work. It reflects our society's recognition of those who came to this country to work hard, play by the rules, and pursue shared ideals of freedom, opportunity, and responsibility.

In the past, hundreds of thousands of eligible people have had to wait unnecessarily to become citizens. In some parts of the country, these people have had to wait well over a year after filing their application to realize their dream of United States citizenship.

This Administration is committed to eliminating the waiting lists of those eligible for citizenship. To accomplish this, we launched "Citizenship U.S.A.," the most ambitious citizenship effort in history. In fiscal year 1996, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) will spend more than $165 million for naturalization.

Citizenship U.S.A. combines three broad strategies: hiring more people to handle applications, improving the naturalization process, and expanding partnerships with local officials and community organizations.

We are already making progress. We have increased the staff 235 percent in the five districts with 75 percent of the pending applications: Los Angeles, New York, Miami, San Francisco, and Chicago. In Los Angeles, where onefourth of all new applications are filed, we have opened three new processing centers and have more than quadrupled the number of INS officers handling citizenship applications.

But this is just the beginning. This Administration's target is to process and swear-in within 6 months of application all individuals eligible for citizenship. As we meet this target, more than one million newcomers will become citizens by the end of this year. After that, INS shall maintain those reforms necessary to stay current with the demand of new citizen applicants.

Using all of the tools at your disposal, I ask you to ensure that policies and practices necessary to accomplish these targets of one million new citizens sworn-in and the elimination of the waiting list are implemented. This includes continuing, expanding or accelerating, as appropriate and practicable, the following:

1) New Hires. Hiring, training, and deployment of full staff to assist naturalization efforts should proceed to completion as quickly as possible.

2) Cutting Red Tape. This includes: establishing electronic filing and mailing-in of citizenship applications, extended weekday hours and Saturday interviews, further expansion of processing facilities, and improvements to make it easier for people to obtain forms and get immigration information by telephone or computer.

3) Working with Local Officials and Community-Based Groups. We are working in partnership with local officials and community groups to expand outreach. I direct you to expand these efforts to help get naturalization information to people, assist them in filling out applications, offer more local sites for interviews, especially for the elderly and the homebound, and seek other means to jointly facilitate the process. We also will work to expand the availability of local hotlines providing naturalization information.

4) English Training. To assist legal immigrants to move toward citizenship, I request relevant agencies to work with the Domestic Policy Council, the National Economic Council, and other White House offices to present to me by December 30, 1996, a report making recommendations with respect to public/private efforts to teach English to those needing to improve their English-language skills. This report should consider possible roles by private companies, educational institutions, unions, community organizations, and the AmeriCorp program to accomplish this goal.

5) Interagency Outreach. I direct each executive department and agency to take steps to promote naturalization outreach consistent with your agency's mission. In particular, in materials sent to welfare recipients concerning eligibility, I direct that, to the extent authorized by law, you include naturalization information.

6) Refugees and Asylees. Those who flee persecution and suffering in their home country are often in the weakest position to acquire the skills they need to enter the job market, maintain self-sufficiency, and achieve U.S. citizenship. I direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in conjunction with other agencies as appropriate, to present to me by December 30, 1996, through the Domestic Policy Council, a report setting out a strategy of additional steps that we can take to promote social adjustment in the United States, economic self-sufficiency, and naturalization.

In taking these steps, this Administration shall maintain and strengthen the standards and requirements of the naturalization test that demonstrate an individual's readiness to accept the responsibilities of citizenship and full participation in our national community. You are directed to continue vigilant oversight to uphold these standards.

Hundreds of thousands of people are seeking the dream and the promise of American citizenship. They have worked to become United States citizens, and these steps should ensure that they are not made to wait unnecessarily.


NOTE: This memorandum was released by the Office of the Press Secretary on August 23.

William J. Clinton, Memorandum on Naturalization Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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