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L.A. libraries launch gateway to citizenship initiative

LOS ANGELES — Mayor Eric Garcetti and Los Angeles City Librarian John F. Szabo joined leaders of major immigration service agencies Jan. 18 to launch the New Americans Initiative, which makes the Los Angeles Public Library a gateway to citizenship for the area’s more than 700,000 legal permanent residents and the city’s most prominent destination for immigration resources.

“Our libraries belong to every Angeleno, and the New Americans Initiative will help bring our immigrant neighbors closer to the dream of citizenship,” Garcetti said. “We’re expanding access to information, services and resources — so that no one in Los Angeles feels alone in taking an extraordinary step to build a more secure and prosperous future for themselves and their families.”

During the event, Garcetti introduced Sergio Sanchez, who used the library’s program to become a U.S. citizen.

“I saw a sign for a citizenship class at the library and thought my dream could come true. It is a place I have been visiting since my son was a toddler and I went to the library in my free time,” Sanchez said.

He added that his son Bryan is now a chemical engineer.

“A librarian helped me enroll in citizenship classes, and I was there every Saturday for three months. I also studied there three times a week because the library had citizenship books, flashcards, CDs, computers and other things to help me.”

The expanded New Americans Initiative features New Americans Centers in six libraries staffed with immigration-trained and Department of Justice-certified library staff and featuring multimedia resources as well as workshops and classes led by community partners.

Centers are currently open at Central Library and Junipero Serra, Pacoima, and Wilmington branch libraries. Centers at Benjamin Franklin and Pio Pico-Koreatown branches are scheduled to open by summer.

New Americans Welcome Stations are in all 73 libraries with citizenship, English as a second language resources, literacy learning and family services, Know Your Rights cards, financial coaching, tenant and worker rights information, workshops on entrepreneurship and career opportunities and others.

City Librarian Szabo said, “As always, the Los Angeles Public Library is at the forefront of providing equitable access to all Angelenos. We have long been a prominent destination for immigrant integration services, and the launch of the New Americans Initiative is a bold next step in expanding these resources.

“At the library, we are proud to welcome everyone, and this initiative reaffirms our commitment to supporting New Americans.”

All of the New Americans Initiative’s programs, resources and services are free to the public. Appointments with immigration experts in New Americans Centers must be made online.

For appointments and more information about the New Americans Initiative visit or call (213) 228-7390.