This Financial Capability Month, Naturalization Leads to a Secure Financial Future

In a nation of immigrants, becoming a citizen is a major milestone. During the naturalization process, aspiring Americans integrate more deeply into the social, cultural, and economic fabric of the United States while following a time-honored tradition of generations of immigrants who naturalized before them.

As we wrap up Financial Capability Month, it’s important to remember the many financial benefits—for both people and for the U.S. economy—that come when people change their immigration status and become more deeply tied to the nation they’ve decided to make home.

There are currently more than nine million legal permanent residents (LPRs)—noncitizen immigrants who are eligible for U.S. citizenship but have not yet applied—in the United States. Research has shown that language barriers and the high cost of the application process often dissuade qualifying immigrants from naturalizing. With a steep cost of $680—not including legal fees and the cost of English classes—many immigrants are effectively priced out of citizenship. In a recent survey of Latino LPRs, an overwhelming 93% said that they would become citizens if they could and NCLR survey research shows similar results.

Last year, NCLR developed a pilot program to help immigrants overcome this financial barrier. Many nonprofits and credit unions have successful citizenship program models that offer legalization assistance, financial coaching, or loan products, but the hallmark of NCLR’s innovative approach is a model that combines all three. NCLR worked with five Affiliates in Washington, DC (Central American Resource Center); Minneapolis, MN (CLUES Comunidades Latinas Unidas en Servicio); Chicago, IL (The Resurrection Project); Miami, FL (Hispanic Unity); and Stockton, CA (El Concilio) to provide LPRs with both legalization services and financial coaching as they navigated the lengthy and complicated naturalization process. Self-Help Federal Credit Union, in partnership with the Affiliates, offered affordable $680 loans to help applicants with the fees.

The pilot program is in its final stages with a report on its outcomes expected in early summer. Anecdotal evidence during the pilot points to the positive impact that financial coaching has had on new citizens’ ability to better manage their household finances, build credit, and save. Research by NCLR Affiliate Mission Asset Fund shows individualized financial coaching with a loan product is an effective combination to help immigrants build a strong financial identity. Because the NCLR Affiliates offer a one-stop shop for citizenship application assistance, financial capability, and a loan product, clients are less likely to become stuck on a step of the process or lose interest because they have to visit multiple locations for services.

Though President Obama’s landmark executive orders on immigration are currently winding their way through the courts, NCLR is prepared to launch a similar program for Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) if administrative relief proceeds. In this program, eligible immigrants will receive help from various nonprofits to obtain work authorization while also building a strong financial foundation with the help of financial coaches. Becoming a citizen is associated with a significant boost in income, and work authorization for DACA and DAPA residents would also significantly improve eligible recipients’ financial lives and their contributions to the U.S. economy. Pilot programs in the field, including the NCLR model, offer a path for immigrants to build a strong financial identity, particularly a credit history, which will allow them to succeed.

#LATISM Twitter Party: Let’s Chat About The Impending Sequester

By Elianne Ramos, LATISM

(Cross-posted from the LATISM blog)

Here we go again: There’s the farcical finger-pointing, the looming deadline, the hyped up countdown. This time, we’re staring at the face of yet another financial ‘apocalypse’ as the so-called Sequester is about to take effect in a couple of days. The spending cuts, commonly called the sequester, are part of the Budget Control Act passed in 2011. Plainly speaking, the Sequester means that a series of budget cuts affecting everything from from military training to educational grants to border patrols to hurricane relief, could potentially go into effect on March 1, 2013.

For the average American, including Latinos, this means a lot of the public services we enjoy everyday could be severely affected. As you can see in the NCLR infographic below, cuts in discretionary domestic spending means the end of funding for essential government programs that aid poor and vulnerable citizens, namely Latinos, who are among those hit hardest by the Great Recession.

So is there anything we can do to prevent this from happening, or do we just sit around and hold our breath? Join #LATISM tonight as we chat with special guests @NCLR who will be answering your questions and help us figure out a game plan! We can do this!

Details:

DATE: Tonight, February 21, 2013

TIME: 9pm EST

HOSTESS: @ergeekgoddess

GUESTS: @NCLR_Econ, @NCLR_Labor, @NCLR

Hashtags: #OurEconomy #LATISM

What's At Stake?

Our Economy Won’t Work Without Latinos

Many would agree that it’s been tough for American workers lately, and particularly for Latinos, who carry an added burden given the unique barriers that they face in the labor market.  Hispanics confront not only high unemployment but also the assumption that they don’t belong in this country.  Worse, anti-immigrant rhetoric has fueled the scapegoating of Latino workers, limiting the possibility of increased economic security and, consequently, a stronger America.

But the truth is that our economy won’t function without the workers we currently have. That’s why on Thursday we’re joining LATISM for a Twitter chat on what we can do to improve this situation.  We’ll be joined by the Center for American Progress as well.  Just log on to Twitter at 9:00 p.m. ET on Thursday and use #OurEconomy to join the party!

It’s sure to be a spirited chat that you won’t want to miss.  We’ll see you online!

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