New Americans Initiative
Los Angeles Public Library, Calif.
The New Americans Initiative (NAI) provides centers in six libraries staffed with immigration specialists and Department of Justice (DOJ) certified library and contract staff. Features include assistance in preparing the naturalization application, Know Your Rights cards in 19 languages, financial coaching, tenant legal services and worker rights information.
There are more than 700,000 residents in Los Angeles who are eligible to naturalize. As a provider of on-site immigration services, the New Americans Initiative places the library in a take-action position. By training staff to become DOJ-accredited representatives, the library augments capacity to help residents become citizens. Moreover, creating library spaces for services provides new points of access to information to help a more inclusive demographic of clients, including those experiencing homelessness.
Key Elements of Innovation
The NAI is built on the success of the LAPL’s Path to Citizenship program (2012) which has helped more than 50,000 Angelenos toward achieving citizenship by way of citizenship classes and materials. Encouraged by continued, extensive community participation in the Path to Citizenship, in 2015, the LAPL became the first municipal library in the nation to secure DOJ-accreditation and recognition, a critical step towards developing the New Americans Initiative services.
Since the launch of NAI in January 2018, community members have made 614 appointments—resulting in more than 300 immigration service sessions with 600 attendees. In May alone, nearly 200 appointments for services were made. LAPL is changing how Angelenos view the library. With service additions about housing and workers’ rights, we anticipate that LAPL will be known widely as a social justice and equity partner for city residents.