An Age-Old Story Meets 21st Century Technology

By Laura Vazquez, Program Manager, Immigration Initiatives, NCLR

Erie Neighborhood House has a long history of helping immigrants get integrated into American society.

NCLR Affiliates have a long history of assisting eligible permanent residents in applying for citizenship. For decades, our Affiliates have worked to integrate America’s newcomers by helping them learn English, apply for citizenship, and then assisting them with registering to vote so that they can fully participate in our democracy.

One such Affiliate is Erie Neighborhood House. Erie was originally founded in 1870 as a settlement house that served immigrants in Chicago. When Erie’s work began, Chicago’s immigrant communities were mostly Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish, and German.

Fast forward to 2017 and Erie is still working to incorporate immigrants into the strong communities that contribute to the vibrancy of Chicago. Its English classes are now made up of immigrants mainly from Latin America who came to Chicago for a better life as previous groups of immigrants have done.

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This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending July 15

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Week Ending July 15

This week in immigration: New toolkit released for schools to welcome immigrants and refugees; New York announces it will cover citizenship application fees for 2,000 immigrants; and Federal Reserve presidents call for immigration reform to boost the economy.

White House releases resources for educators on immigrant integration: In coordination with the White House’s announcement of “Bright Spots” on welcoming and expanding opportunity for Linguistic Integration and Education, the Department of Education released a guide for schools to support immigrants, refugees, and their families with a successful integration process. The Newcomer Toolkit provides information, resources and examples of effective practices that educators can use to support newcomers in our schools and communities. Lessons include understanding legal obligations to newcomers, providing welcoming schools and classrooms for newcomers and their families, and supporting students’ social emotional skills.

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Financial Capability Is Putting Immigrants on the Road to Citizenship and Financial Security

FinancialCapability_sharegraphic-02The path to U.S. citizenship is extremely rewarding but also a long and difficult process. Becoming a citizen has many benefits including higher wages, access to government jobs, and retention of retirement benefits, yet immigrants must also face the technical nature of immigration policy, such as a 20-page application and a civics test that one in three native-born Americans regularly fail. Additionally, there are financial barriers that all too often preclude low-to moderate-income immigrants from reaching their goal of citizenship.

The financial challenges are not limited to the application cost alone, which ballooned 610 perent from 1998–2008. They include costs for English language instruction, legal assistance, and civics classes. These barriers pose a significant challenge to low-income immigrants who are aspiring to become American citizens. To help these aspiring Americans reach both their immigration and financial goals, NCLR, with the support of Citi Foundation, has been working with several Affiliates across the country to integrate financial capability resources and immigration service programs.

Simply put, financial capability is financial knowledge, coaching to reach one’s goals, and access to safe and affordable financial products. Such services empower Latino families to make informed decisions for their financial future.

 

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Folks like  J. Reyes (names have been changed to protect anonymity) have already benefited from a combination of financial capability and citizenship services. After attending a 2014 Citizenship Workshop at our Affiliate, The Resurrection Project (TRP), Reyes was identified as a citizenship candidate after hearing a presentation about how to cover the application fee, which included loans. He initially applied for an application fee waiver with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, but found out he was ineligible. He remembered the presentation at The Resurrection Project and reached out about the possibility of applying for a loan. Mr. Reyes was a prime candidate for financial coaching as he needed help improving his credit score. During the initial coaching session, he developed an action plan to address his credit and budget needs. Next, TRP made a direct referral to a local credit union, Second Federal, to apply for the loan. Had it not been for that loan, Reyes says, he would have had to wait on citizenship and his credit would have continued to crumble. Since meeting with our Affiliate and applying for the loan, Mr. Reyes achieved his long-time goal of receiving American citizenship.

Financial capability goes beyond helping immigrants reach their citizenship goals, too. D. Angulo, originally from El Salvador, received information about budgeting and saving as part of his ESL instruction at our Affiliate, Hispanic Unity of Florida. During his citizenship preparation, he received one-on-one coaching sessions that helped him to remove credit report errors and to open a money market account so he could begin saving for a house. Angulo has since become a citizen and soon will have saved enough to put a down payment on his first home.

D. Angulo and J. Reyes are just two examples of how financial capability can empower people to take control of their future. There are scores of other Latino families who have yet to benefit from this integrated model, and we’re working hard to reach them. With the help of trusted community institutions like NCLR Affiliates, we are helping immigrants more successfully navigate the road to the American Dream—citizenship, success, and economic security.

White House Offers Immigrant Integration Recommendations

Last Spring, the White House Task Force on New Americans released 48 recommendations for federal agencies to work better at facilitating immigrant integration.  This week, the Task Force released its progress report.  Read the whole report below.

White House NewAmericans Progress Report_2015

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.