According to The Washington Post, President Obama considers his administration’s inability to pass immigration reform the biggest failure of his first four years in office. The president and the Senate are geared up to not let another four years pass without meaningful reform. On June 27, the Senate passed an immigration bill put forth by a gang of eight influential Senators representing both parties. The bill is currently in the House, and although it isn’t expected to pass, the conversation on immigration is well underway and comprehensive reform could be coming before the next cycle of congressional elections in 2014.
A key ingredient to the Senate bill, and most immigration reform frameworks, is the provision that illegal immigrants are required to register with the United States government, undergo a background check, and pay a fine and back taxes, before being granted legal status. The bill suggests granting illegal immigrants legal status on a probationary basis.
The president wants to move on immigration and has asked Congress to quickly get legislation on his desk. Change could be coming soon. So, how does this relate to credit unions?
There are 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States, so there is an opportunity here to bring on new members and help them pay the fines and back taxes due to get started on a path to legal citizenship. However, many immigrants applying for American citizenship will need more than just the financial assistance and planning to pay for fees and back taxes. Probationary citizenship as outlined in the gang of eight’s bill does not afford federal benefits, meaning there is also an opportunity to help members find coverage that is manageable for each member’s unique means and needs.
Credit unions are leaders in providing a more holistic financial service and taking a human interest in the well being of their members. Working with immigrant populations is not unprecedented in the credit union movement. In June of 2012 President Obama signed an executive order that deferred deportation and granted work permits to young immigrants and, in response, Latino Community Credit Union in Durham, NC created a product called Dreamer Loans to help pay for the $465 application.
Manatee Community Credit Union in Bradenton, FL has created a $1,000 secured loan to help members cover expenses directly related to immigration reform. The loan is intended to help establish credit and build savings for those with no credit, limited credit, or challenged credit.
Promise Credit Union in Houston is partnering with a local non-profit to offer citizenship loans to the city’s 300,000 immigrants. These legal residents are required to submit naturalization applications, which can cost $700. These institutions found a point of pain with their membership and are using niche products and services to help their immigrant populations become United States citizens. What products or services does your institution offer?