Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced a two-pronged plan to help Dane County residents gain citizenship at a news conference Thursday.
The plan is concrete action that backs up the county government’s previous statement of support for immigrants, Parisi said.
There are thousands of people in Dane County who are eligible for citizenship, Parisi said, but many lack the resources to attain it.
“These are our neighbors and they’re living in fear,” Parisi said. “They need our help, they need our assistance gaining their path to citizenship and claiming what is rightfully theirs so that they can benefit from all the benefits of citizenship — and quite frankly — so that we can too. We need immigrants in this community.”
The first part of the plan will create an Office of Immigration Assistance within the Office of Equity and Inclusion, Parisi said. The office will help connect local residents with immigration resources, Parisi said.
The second part of the plan provides $75,000 to start an immigration assistance fund, Parisi said. The fund will help provide financial support for community members in the citizenship application process.
It will also help residents with legal assistance so they can more easily navigate through citizenship issues, Parisi said.
“What I try to look for in our community is nuts and bolts solutions to the challenges people are facing,” Parisi said. “What we’re doing is addressing a need in our community that’s going to help the residents of our community. It’s going to help the greater community.”
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The fund will be created through a request for proposal so the community can be involved in determining what the fund does, Parisi said.
Parisi said Dane County has not reached out to specific groups yet but will be reaching out to the business and philanthropic communities to grow and maintain the fund.
Dane County wants to send a message to the immigrant community that they are welcome here and the county is there to help, he added.
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Parisi said they plan to introduce this resolution at the Feb. 23 County Board meeting.
“We’re looking at the art of the possible — what do we have control over, how can we help, how can we meet the needs of our community?” Parisi said. “And at the same time, reflecting the values of the people who live in this community, because this isn’t just about people who are immigrants who are looking for that path to citizenship.”