This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending July 29

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Week Ending July 29, 2016

This week in immigration: NCLR holds its annual conference consisting of many panels and workshops focused on immigration and immigrant integration.

NCLR Annual Conference: NCLR’s Annual Conference was held this past weekend in Orlando, Florida. The conference started off with a naturalization ceremony at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) Field Office in Orlando. NCLR President and CEO, Janet Murguía, and USCIS Southeast Regional Director Kathy Redman Field Officer welcomed nearly 90 new U.S. citizens from 36 different countries. In congratulating the country’s newest citizens, Murguía encouraged them to use their new responsibilities as citizens and cast their votes.  “I want you to vote in this upcoming election,” she told the group. “Your vote now can make a difference in the direction we move our country.”

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Janet Murguía with some of our newest citizens after a naturalization ceremony in Orlando

NCLR also held workshops during the conference focused on immigration legal services and immigrant integration. NCLR Affiliate, Latinos Progresando, shared their expertise in building and sustaining an immigration legal services program. In another session, NCLR Affiliates worked on completing applications to the Board of Immigration Appeals for recognition in order to provide immigration legal services.

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Making Citizenship Affordable for All

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We have just published a new brief that describes the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ fee review process to explain how the fee is established. It also explores the effect of the fee on naturalization rates.

This brief will provide related recommendations for the administration and for Congress to further encourage eligible immigrants to apply for citizenship.

Download and read it today.

Financial Access and Services Are Essential for Immigrant Integration

By Lindsay Daniels, Manager, Wealth-Building Initiative, NCLR

Labor-Day-Banner-Photo-4Latinos have represented the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population in recent decades. Significant growth is expected to continue—the Census Bureau estimates the Hispanic population will increase by 86 percent between 2015 and 2050, amounting to 119 million or one in four Americans, by 2060.

Given this tremendous population growth, the health of the U.S. economy is deeply tied to the status of Latino financial health. Access to safe, affordable, and cross-cultural financial products and services is essential for Latino individuals, families, and entrepreneurs to fully participate in the banking system.

Yet today, too few Latinos understand the banking system and have financial institutions they turn to for financial advice. Many Hispanic families lack access to safe and affordable credit or know their credit score, which often results in people seeking high-cost alternative financial services like check cashing or payday loans or relying on family and friends for financial help. Too much emphasis on technology without considering clients’ preferences leaves behind those who still rely on bank branches and have limited internet access.

These are the findings of a series recently published by NCLR. Profiles on Latinos and Banking takes a deeper dive into the data from the previously published report Banking in Color: New Findings on Financial Access for Low- to Moderate-Income Communities. The profiles, produced with support of the Ford Foundation and Citi Community Development, pay particular attention to how Latinos save, access credit, utilize banking technology, and the linkage between citizenship and participation in the financial sector.

Key findings include:

  • Despite saving regularly, Latinos have a limited financial safety net. One in three respondents reported they had trouble paying bills or needed emergency cash during the past year.
  • Several factors, including education, income, and language ability can affect access to and understanding of credit. For Latinos earning less than $30,000 per year, only 36 percent reported using a credit card, compared to 70 percent of those earning $50,000 or more.
  • Technology has been viewed as a vehicle to increase access to and awareness of personal financial information. However, only one-fifth of survey respondents reported having used mobile banking.
  • Citizenship is an asset that aids the integration of Latinos into the financial mainstream, yet many barriers exist that prevent noncitizens from fully participating in the system. Noncitizen Hispanics were less likely to own a bank account or save money than their citizen peers. Sixty-seven percent of noncitizens reported having a bank account, compared to 82 percent of citizen respondents. More than half (54%) of noncitizen respondents lacked a credit card compared to only 38% of citizen respondents.

These findings shed light on the barriers Latinos face to full financial access and inclusion. As Latinos and other communities of color grow, financial products and services must also expand and adapt to meet the needs of these consumers. Financial institutions must innovate with a goal of helping integrate new immigrants into the financial mainstream. Policymakers must examine and regulate high-cost and predatory financial products that strip wealth from communities of color. After all, there is a huge economic opportunity and benefit for both the public and private sector to better serve this rapidly expanding Latino market of the future.

Modern Day Settlement Houses Strengthening Communities Across the Country

Day in and day out, NCLR Affiliates across the country provide services that assist permanent residents who are eligible to become citizens. Our Affiliates are the spiritual descendants of the original Settlement Houses, and in the case of NCLR Affiliate Erie House in Chicago, were founded as Settlement Houses. In addition to teaching English, they provide civics classes and assist in filling out the immigration forms in order to naturalize. They are responding to the challenges that immigrants who want to naturalize face by innovating and providing solutions that will encourage their clients to complete the multi-step process of becoming citizens.

For example, in Delaware, the Latin American Community Center (LACC) runs a Lifelong Learning Adult Education English as a Second Language program and a civics program that offers flexible scheduling, personalized placement, and availability of education classes during the day and evening at three locations. Recognizing that students have varied work schedules, LACC understands that flexibility is one of the keys to their students’ success. LACC is complementing the classes with a new program to assist individuals in filling out the application for citizenship.

Here in Washington the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN) takes advantage of its location in the nation’s capital to prepare students for the civics exam. As part of the 12-week citizenship class, students go on a field trip visiting national monuments and landmarks as part of their preparation for the naturalization exam. What better way to cement learning about U.S. government and history than by touring sites commemorating our country’s history! At the end of the class, students get a chance to prepare through a mock citizenship interview.

In California, where more than a quarter of the 8.8 million permanent residents who are eligible to naturalize reside, many NCLR Affiliates are providing citizenship classes and application assistance. In the Inland Empire, there are more than 250,000 permanent residents who are eligible to become citizens, and TODEC hosts regular workshops to assist individuals in completing the application. Recently, the group’s efforts were highlighted in a news broadcast. As you can see in the video (watch below), TODEC’s Youth Leadership Team is spreading out across the community knocking on doors to encourage eligible permanent residents to become citizens and urging citizens to register to vote.

Every door that they knock on is an opportunity to talk to people like José, who has lived in the U.S. for 30 years and is a permanent resident. He says that he has more desire than ever now in becoming a U.S. citizen so that he can vote as a result of being tired of politicians, such as Donald Trump, who scapegoat the Latino community to get votes. José says, “Donald Trump is hurting us but at the same time, he is pushing us to overcome—so that those of us who have the opportunity to vote, vote and those who don’t have that opportunity, become citizens.”

José echoes the call to action made by Janet Murguía when she said: “If we want hope to prevail in this time of challenge, we must act, and use every tool at our disposal. That includes, if you are eligible, becoming a citizen. If you are eligible, register to vote.”

This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending July 3

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Week Ending July 3

This week in immigration reform: celebrating citizenship in light of Independence Day; the growing influence of the Latino community; and Delaware extends driving permits to undocumented immigrants.

This Fourth of July, Let’s Celebrate New Citizens: This Saturday marks America’s 239th birthday. As we head into the holiday weekend, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is preparing to welcome more than 4,000 new citizens in more than 50 naturalization ceremonies between July 1st and 4th.  A San Jose Mercury News article covered a naturalization ceremony during which 92 new Americans took their oaths of citizenship. New American Sergio Saporna Jr., 43, came to the U.S. almost 16 years ago from the Philippines: “Today, in the ceremony, I was thinking about where I came from, but also about all the benefits and wonderful things that have happened to me. I think becoming a citizen is the best way for me to give something back to the country that has already given me so much.” This weekend follow #newUScitizen for photos and tweets of people celebrating the 4th of July as new Americans. 

Also this week, Univision, along with NCLR, NALEO, LULAC, and CitizenshipWorks launched a campaign to promote the benefits of becoming a U.S. citizen. “There are an estimated four million Hispanics eligible for citizenship in the U.S.,” said Roberto Llamas, executive vice president for Human Resources & Community Empowerment. “Our goal is to help them understand the benefits, rights and responsibilities that come with citizenship, particularly how to qualify and prepare themselves to vote.” Check out UnivisionContigo.com for information and resources on applying for U.S. citizenship.  

The Latino community’s growing influence is already changing the 2016 election landscape: This week, 2016 GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump is facing consequences after making derogatory remarks about Latino immigrants. Media companies NBC and Univision have cut ties with the business mogul and Macy’s Department Store will no longer carry his menswear line. NCLR issued a press statement applauding NBC and Univision for their decision: “NBC deserves an enormous amount of credit for reaffirming what their company stands for and, as importantly, what it does not stand for. We know that this was not an easy choice for NBC and its parent company, Comcast, nor was it easy for Univision, and they will have NCLR’s full support going forward. We applaud those in both companies who worked so diligently behind the scenes to address this issue and ultimately make this difficult decision. It was the right thing to do,” stated NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguía.

An NPR story linked the backlash from Trump’s comments to the growing influence of the Latino population, especially as consumers. Latinos are one of fastest growing groups of consumers, with their collective purchasing power expected to reach $1.5 trillion this year, up 50% from 2010. Further, the average age of the Hispanic population is 27 and they are just entering their prime buying years. The media is also vying for the Latino audience. Candidates and companies alike can no longer risk insulting or alienating our community without paying an economic price.

Delaware passes law allowing undocumented immigrants driving permits: A Washington Post article reports this week that Delaware Governor Jack Markell signed a bill to give driving privilege cards to undocumented immigrants who have ties to the state. The state will begin issuing the cards in six months.

 While Delaware is implementing helpful, welcoming policies for undocumented immigrants, other states are still holding up federal deferred action programs that would provide social and economic benefits nationwide. This week the three-judge panel in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals was chosen to hear arguments on July 10th regarding the Texas lawsuit stopping expanded DACA and DAPA. Many remain confident that the judicial system will eventually side with the Obama Administration. In a New York Times op-ed, Matt Barreto writes: “Just as with same-sex marriage and Obamacare, the issue of immigration is before the federal courts, and if past decisions are any indication, it is very likely that 12 months from now the Supreme Court will continue to validate the progressive movement by affirming Obama’s immigration orders as constitutional and in line with U.S. public opinion.” The Justice Department hasn’t ruled out taking the case to the Supreme Court, but they are currently allowing the case to work its way through the Fifth Circuit.