Citi and Miami-Dade: Investing in Inclusion
By Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, Miami-Dade County, Florida April 12, 2016 09:00 AM
Nearly one out of every five people who live in Miami-Dade County is an immigrant eligible for citizenship; but because of real and perceived legal, financial and informational hurdles, these individuals are missing out on the potential for higher earnings and access to vital resources for education and retirement.
That’s nearly half a million people -- greater than the entire population of the City of Atlanta.
Increasing immigrant integration in our county for those who are eligible will benefit families, their businesses, and both our local and national economies. Studies show that residents who naturalize see an average increase in earnings of between eight and eleven percent. If just half of all eligible residents became citizens, that could translate into a $3.2 billion boost in total earnings for Miami Dade residents. We also know that becoming a citizen opens up pathways for immigrants to stabilize their household finances and to build a stronger financial identity alongside their new national identity.
That’s why I am so proud that Miami-Dade has united with Citi Community Development to join Cities for Citizenship, a national initiative aimed at increasing citizenship and financial capability among eligible U.S. Legal Permanent Residents through a public-private partnership. To date, 21 members have joined and I am proud to say that Miami-Dade is the first county member.
I have spent my career here building initiatives that enable a prosperous future for families and the communities where they live -- so this campaign is a natural extension of my commitment to building a more vibrant and inclusive Miami-Dade.
In Miami-Dade, a new Mayor’s Office of New Americans with support from our nonprofit parnter Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC), will provide permanent residents with assistance in completing the N-400 citizenship application through classes or one-on-one sessions, screen for eligibility for the application fee waiver, and connect immigrants with financial coaching, legal assistance and other support. This is a powerful tool for inclusive economic growth by supporting eligible immigrants to become citizens, and everyone benefits. That’s the power of being inclusive. Mayor Carlos Gimenez embraced this initiative and his office shepherded its implementation.
The launch of Cities for Citizenship Miami-Dade also marked the naturalization and celebration of 30 new citizens from across the globe. Ketline Thomas (seen in the video), is a Haitian immigrant living in Miami-Dade County, Florida. After years of living and working here, she became a U.S. citizen in order to access more jobs, achieve economic mobility and contribute to her local economy.
Now, new Americans in Miami-Dade, like Ketline and her peers, will have access to economic opportunities that will in turn boost our local economy.
All of this work would not have been possible without Citi Community Development’s thought leadership and commitment to Miami-Dade. As the Founding Corporate Partner of Cities for Citizenship, Citi is taking a lead in this innovative public-private solution to addressing the financial empowerment needs of new Americans. I am proud to work alongside Citi Community Development to ensure that Miami-Dade continues to empower eligible permanent residents with a financial identity so that they can access new opportunities for themselves, their families, and contribute to our vibrant community.
About the Author
Daniella Levine Cava was elected in 2014 to serve as the Miami-Dade County Commissioner representing District 8. Commissioner Levine Cava comes to elected office after having served as an advocate for South Florida residents and communities for over 30 years.
She served special needs children and immigrants at Legal Services of Greater Miami, and then represented children in the child welfare system as Associate and Legal Director for the Guardian Ad Litem Program.
In 1996 Commissioner Levine Cava founded Catalyst Miami (formerly called Human Services Coalition of Dade County) to help low- and middle-income families through education and advocacy. Catalyst is an innovator in health and human services and an incubator for new approaches to community and economic development. At Catalyst Miami, she launched the Prosperity Campaign, a multi-sector campaign to help people increase their income and savings, and has brought in hundreds of millions in income tax credits and other programs, money reinvested in the local economy. Catalyst helps approximately 5,000 people each year to become more self-sufficient.