The Ali Family Fund has awarded $150,000 to MIRA to support free legal assistance with naturalization and outreach to aspiring new Americans, enabling MIRA’s Citizenship Program to double its capacity, for an expected total of 600 applications to be submitted in the next two years.
More than half of immigrants in Massachusetts – over 643,000 – are naturalized U.S. citizens, but over 200,000 more are eligible to become citizens, but have yet to do so. Despite the major benefits of citizenship – from the right to vote, to being able to sponsor family members – studies have found that a large share of those who are eligible are unlikely to complete the process without at least some support. This is a key reason why MIRA has prioritized citizenship assistance.
Established in 2011, MIRA’s Citizenship Program screens immigrants for eligibility for naturalization and for fee waivers, helps them complete the 20-page application, provides a careful legal review, and supports clients through the process until they are sworn in as U.S. citizens. MIRA also connects applicants with English language and civic classes and other resources as needed. All of MIRA’s services are free of charge.
Prior to the pandemic, MIRA’s team processed most citizenship applications at free clinics in Boston and other communities, but during the COVID-19 crisis, the Citizenship Program has transitioned to almost all-virtual services.
“I know how important naturalization programs are and what an impact they can have on people’s future,” said Mohamad Ali, co-founder of the Ali Family Fund and CEO of International Data Group (IDG), and himself a naturalized U.S. citizen. “Immigrants have been our nation’s strength. They work hard, study hard, create businesses, create jobs, and build our American economy because they know what life is like elsewhere and chose America.”
“We are thrilled and deeply grateful for this gift,” said Eva A. Millona, President and CEO of MIRA. “The Ali Family Fund for Naturalization will transform hundreds of lives, turning immigrants into U.S. citizens and full participants in this nation’s economic, cultural and civic life.”
The gift comes at a critical time, on the heels of an announcement by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that fees for naturalization applications will increase from $725 to $1,170, and the opportunity to request a fee waiver will be eliminated for most applicants. As fees increase, making citizenship more financially burdensome, it is more crucial than ever to provide free legal assistance.
MIRA is also encouraging eligible immigrants to try to submit their application before October 2, when the changes take effect. This grant will help ensure that the Citizenship Program can support all who try to seize this opportunity.
The Ali Family Fund is a champion for social justice, focusing on improving access to education for underprivileged children. The Fund has opened gender violence prevention centers in El Salvador and Guatemala, helped build girls’ schools in Somalia and Pakistan, and established an arts scholarship for children here in Massachusetts.
Mr. Ali, co-founder of the Ali Family Fund, was honored by MIRA in 2019 at its Give Liberty a Hand gala. Born in Guyana to parents from poor rural families, he came to the U.S. when he was 11. In New York, the family built a new life and, in 1991, he became a U.S. citizen. By then, he was a student at Stanford University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering and a master’s degree in electrical engineering.
Mr. Ali found success in technology, serving as Vice-President at IBM, President at Avaya, and as Chief Strategy Officer at Hewlett Packard. He led Carbonite as its CEO from 2014 until 2019. In 2018, he was named CEO of the Year by the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council. Currently, along with heading IDG, he serves on the boards of WGBH Educational Foundation, Oxfam America, iRobot, and the Mass Technology Leadership Council.