A Guest Post by Michael Kavate of Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees
DACA can transform lives. A successful application—while by no means a cure-all—can be the first step toward a better job, higher earnings, and freedom from the fear of deportation. These benefits and others uplift not only the lives of the applicants, but those of their families and communities—a driver’s license offers access to more jobs, bank accounts help safely store earnings, and capital allows immigrants to make business investments for themselves or others. Yet for too many would-be beneficiaries, the $465 fee to submit an application is too high a barrier.
To help eligible youth and young adults surmount this obstacle, credit unions across the country have stepped up. Alone and in partnership with philanthropy, dozens of credit unions have created loan programs that promise to not only unlock the benefits of DACA for applicants, but to familiarize immigrants with the mainstream financial services that are the foundation of a secure financial future. These loans can help establish or bolster immigrants’ credit scores, opening the door for future car, student, and business loans, as well as to the financial products that many Americans take for granted: credit cards, mortgages, and retirement accounts.
Participants in a recent Learning Network call asked for more information about these efforts, wanting to make sure they were aware of and leveraging relevant resources. Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees (GCIR) has compiled the following list and broad details about these programs based on our experience in this sphere. For more details about common structures, as well as case studies of five leading programs, review GCIR’s report, Dreamer Loan Programs: The Power of Partnerships with Community Development Credit Unions.
The first such loan programs were launched primarily by credit unions serving large numbers of immigrants, but these programs are spreading far and wide, including to new immigrant destinations like Iowa and Vermont. Many of these credit unions focus on DACA, but others offer loans for citizenship applications and other immigration-related needs. Most programs are structured as personal loans, with interest rates of 8 to 15 percent.
The following list represents a sampling of the many loan programs located around the country. It is not intended to be comprehensive, and represents only a ‘snapshot in time’ of the current programs available.
- Arizona: At least one program, run by the MariSol Federal Credit Union (FCU), which is based in Phoenix.
- California: At least five programs, including the DACA Loan program run by Self-Help FCU (profiled in GCIR’s report) and its divisions in several locations across the state; two programs supported in part by the California Community Foundation and run by, respectively, the Pacoima Development FCU and Family FCU (both also profiled); one at the Sunkist Employees Federal Credit Union in Sherman Oaks; and a citizenship-focused program at Ventura County Credit Union. There is also the Mission Asset Fund, which organizes lending circles for citizenship and DACA applicants.
- Illinois: At least two programs, including a citizenship-focused program at North Side Community FCU, operated in partnership with Centro Romero, and the DACA Loans program run by Second Federal, a division of Self-Help FCU. Both are located in Chicago.
- Iowa: At least two programs, including the New Iowans Initiative run by Ascentra Credit Union, which is headquartered in Muscatine, and a program run by Village Credit Union, which is based in Des Moines.
- Kansas: At least one citizenship-focused program, run by Holy Rosary Credit Union, which is based in Kansas City.
- Massachusetts: At least one program, the Dreamer Loan program run by Naveo Credit Union, which is headquartered in Somerville.
- New Mexico: At least one program, located at the immigrant-focused Guadalupe Credit Union, which is based in Santa Fe (profiled in GCIR’s report).
- New York: At least four programs, including the Dreamer Loan Fund, run by New Economy Project in collaboration with Brooklyn Cooperative FCU and Lower East Side People’s FCU (profiled in GCIR’s report); a program run by the Urban Upbound FCU in Long Island; and a citizenship loan program run by Neighborhood Trust FCU, which is based in the Bronx.
- North Carolina: At least two programs, including the Dreamer Loan program run by the Latino Community Credit Union, which is based in Durham. It was one of the first to launch and, by many accounts, one of most successful in the country (profiled in GCIR’s report). Self-Help FCU also has locations in North Carolina.
- Ohio: At least one program, run by Nueva Esperanza Community Credit Union, which is headquartered in Toledo, with a wide range of partners.
- Oregon: At least one program, run by Maps Credit Union in Salem. There is also a community development financial institution, Innovative Changes, with a Dreamer Loan program.
- Texas: At least one citizenship-focused program, run by Southwest 66 Credit Union in Odessa.
- Vermont: At least one program, run by Opportunities Credit Union in Winooski.
- Virginia: At least one citizenship-focused program, run by Freedom First FCU in Roanoke.
- Washington State: At least two programs, including the Seed of Opportunity Citizenship Loans program at Lower Valley FCU and the DACA Loans program at North Coast FCU. There is also the Build Your Dream DACA loan program coordinated by the Seattle-based nonprofit, 21Progress, in partnership with Express Credit Union.
- Washington, D.C.: At least one program, based at the District Government Employees’ FCU and supported by Central American Resource Center-DC.