Immigrants receive help with citizenship loans from a credit union

Advocate groups across the nation are finding new ways to help undocumented immigrants on their path to citizenship. One unique option for immigrants living in California’s growing Hispanic community is being offered by a local credit union. A credit union with branches in different cities in California is launching a loan program that would cover the U.S. citizen application fee for undocumented immigrants.

A California division of North Carolina-based Self-Help Federal Credit Union called Community Trust has proposed to offer $1,000 loans for the citizenship application to individuals and up to $4,000 for a family of applicants. Borrowers will be charged 12 percent interest on this fee, but if the amount is paid off before receiving the disbursement, the interest amount will be less. This is an attempt by the credit union to expand its client base among the Hispanic community in California. The organization hopes that once immigrants become credit union customers, they will open a checking or savings account, or take out a home loan.

Because many undocumented immigrants do not speak fluent English or lack a relationship with a financial advisor, they can be vulnerable to predatory lending or fees levied by paycheck cashing services. The credit union wants to engage this population that they see as underserved by financial institutions. They also offer a loan that helps immigrants pay for the application for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) that was signed by President Barack Obama in 2012. DACA was designed to protect children of immigrants against deportation if they came to the U.S. with their parents without proper authorization. The credit union has called this product the Dreamer Loan. Other credit unions across the country are beginning to adopt these programs to help their local communities of immigrants on their path to citizenship.