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County aims to ease citizenship process for immigrants

 

To help San Mateo County residents seeking U.S. citizenship, the county has created the Office of Immigration Support and Coordination.

Thirty-four percent of San Mateo County residents, roughly 240,000 people, were not born in the U.S. About 108,000 are not U.S. citizens, according to 2014 numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Among California counties, San Mateo County has the third-highest proportion of residents who have migrated from outside the U.S., behind Santa Clara County's 37 percent and Los Angeles County's 35 percent. The Migration Policy Institute estimates that about 57,000 have immigrated illegally.

The office will use county funds to hire one person, Jasmine Hartenstein, to work full time on the initiative, according to Effie Milionis Verducci, a spokesperson for the county's Human Services Agency.

The office plans to help connect people to existing services for immigrants, she said. A [hsa.smcgov.org/oisc website was created to consolidate information about organizations and services that help people manage the citizenship process, including ESL classes, legal services resources and social services.

The office plans to set up "citizenship corners" in public libraries around the county, where there will be a dedicated shelf with information related to the citizenship process. DVDs, flash cards and other study materials will be available.

Citizenship workshops, hosted by the county and the International Institute of the Bay Area, will teach people about the citizenship application process, including how to get a waiver for the $680 application fee. Several workshops have been organized, and everyone who applied for citizenship at the last event received the $680 fee waiver, Ms. Verducci said.

The initiative is still in an early phase, she said. "We're dipping our toes in the water to see what value we can bring to this population and connect with other people who have been in the field longer. We're learning a lot right now."

That said, she added, "Going forward, I don't think it'll be limited to what we're doing now."

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