Early last year, Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed the creation of a New York State Office for New Americans. Office locations are expected to open throughout the state within the coming months, just as President Obama and Congress are set to introduce their immigration reform proposal.
Some 27 Office for New Americans (ONA) centers are expected to open throughout the state, offering services to the more than one million New Yorkers eligible for naturalization, according to Voices of New York.
Governor Cuomo in his State of the State Address last year said that the offices would:
“…assist the many legal permanent residents eager to contribute to our economy and become part of the family of New York. It will also help them by encouraging entrepreneurship. It will take steps to protect new Americans as they transition to full participation in New York’s communities.”
“We must live up to the promise of the Lady in our Harbor and ensure New York remains a land of opportunity for all. When new New Yorkers prosper, we all prosper. When they succeed, we all succeed. We are not afraid of immigrants in New York, because we are immigrants and children of immigrants, and we know how much they contribute to the state.”
The services that the ONA will offer focus on promoting U.S. citizenship and civic involvement, and include free English classes, preparation for citizenship, and assistance in starting small businesses.
Organizations such as Make the Road New York and New York Immigration Coalition have been testing the program since late last year. The YMCA created six pilot programs in areas like Chinatown, Prospect Park and Flushing in New York City and also on the North Shore on Long Island.