A naturalization ceremony in Virginia. Courtesy Department of Homeland Security

San Diego business and government leaders recognized national Citizenship Day with a commitment to help an estimated 200,000 legal immigrants in San Diego obtain citizenship.

“San Diego is a global city and diversity is one of our greatest assets,” said Mayor Kevin Faulconer. “So when businesses help legal permanent residents become citizens, it serves to strengthen both our community and economy.

“Our proximity to Mexico and the Pacific offer boundless opportunities for trade and investment, helping us attract the best workers from within our country and across the world,” he added.

Faulconer spoke at an event Thursday sponsored by his office, the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and the New American Workforce, a private, national program to help employers offer citizenship services and support to employees.

“With over 200,000 legal permanent residents in San Diego eligible to naturalize right now, the business community can play a significant role in meeting this need by bringing citizenship services to the workplace,” said Jerry Sanders, president and CEO of the chamber and a former mayor. “Providing citizenship assistance at the workplace helps businesses with recruitment, loyalty and retention, creates an inclusive work culture, and builds goodwill in the community.”

“San Diego is one of the biggest immigration transit points in the U.S. Mayor Faulconer has shown real leadership in welcoming legal immigration and encouraging businesses to put stock in helping their employees earn citizenship,” said Ali Noorani, executive director or the National Immigration Forum, which sponsors the New American Workforce program.

A number of executives from local companies attended and reported success with the citizenship program.

“We are happy to offer our employees assistance with their process of gaining citizenship. And what’s more, we are happy to report that several employees have already become U.S. citizens ” said Shelly Hester, director of human resources for Hunter Industries in San Marcos.

Mike Staples, general manager for Evans Hotels, said employees completing the citizenship application are “more motivated and have aired a new sense of pride and accomplishment in themselves… and these emotions are contagious.”

Sept. 17, the date of the signing of the Constitution in 1787, is recognized as both Constitution Day and Citizenship Day.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.