Earlier this month, Senator Barak Obama (D-IL) and Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) introduced the Citizenship Promotion Act of 2007. This bill, if enacted into law, would authorize Immigration Services to request and receive appropriations that would make up the difference between current fees charged to citizenship applicants and the necessary resources needed to fund the Service.

The basic provisions of the Citizenship Promotion Act are as follows:

* Prevent Immigration Services from increasing the naturalization fees until Congress develops an oversight mechanism that would keep the USCIS from implementing unreasonable fee increases — as the agency now is proposing.

* Improve the administration of the citizenship tests for English, U.S. history and government. The bill would require that the tests be administered uniformly nationwide, there be no extraordinary or unreasonable conditions placed on applicants taking the tests, and the age, education level, time in the United States, and efforts made by citizenship applicants would be taken into account when administering the tests.

* Establish a national citizenship promotion program, the “New Americans Initiative,” to conduct citizenship outreach activities and make grants to non-profit organizations to help lawful permanent residents (LPRs) become U.S. citizens, help non-profit agencies conduct English language and citizenship classes for LPRs, and carry out outreach activities to educate immigrant communities to assist people to become citizens and assist with the application process.   

* Decrease the citizenship application backlog by encouraging the Attorney General to complete background checks within a reasonable period of time and without sacrificing national security.   

* Ensure that low-income eligible LPRs whose communities suffer the ill effects of the digital divide would have an equal chance to apply for citizenship as do other eligible LPRs.