A few weeks ago the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a proposed rule that will change how the government looks at immigrants who have used or are likely to use public benefits. This proposed rule would enforce outrageous standards for evaluation, like using an immigrant’s credit report and score to determine whether they are or are likely to become a “public charge.” To put this into perspective, a credit score of 640 (a below average FICO score) could mean the difference between receiving and not receiving a green card.

The proposed rule characterizes toxic America values that fail to acknowledge and respect the contributions of all immigrants regardless of financial status.

If implemented, the rule will make it difficult for: 1) immigrants who are currently outside of and seeking permission into the United States to receive a visa; or 2) immigrants who are already in the United States and are applying to become a legal permanent resident (or green card holder) through a family member or their employer.

At the core of the proposed rule is the federal government’s effort to expand the list of public assistance programs that will be considered when evaluating an immigrants’ eligibility to secure status. The current public charge policy only considers cash assistance and government-funded long-term institutional care but the proposed rule would expand it to also include the following key social safety net programs: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), non-emergency Medicaid, Medicare Part D, and Section 8 housing vouchers.

This is a deliberate, mean-spirited tactic employed by the administration to further harm vulnerable immigrant families in the United States.

Aside from expanding the definition of public charge to include additional public assistance programs, the proposed rule would also set forth short-sided standards for US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officers to consider when making public charge determinations.

In the proposed rule, the federal government outlines a new household income threshold that highly favors immigrants with a household income over 250 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (which, for a family of four, is more than $62,000 annually). The proposed rule would also mandate immigrants to disclose their credit history and score as a weighted factor of their financial status. Its expansion of public assistance programs along with its increased breadth of scope for factors, like financial status, would penalize non-citizen immigrant families for a lack of “self-sufficiency”, or in other words, for being low-income.

The underlying message to immigrant families is what’s most worrisome — choose between receiving critical public assistance for the health and well-being of you and your family or secure your future immigration status in the United States.

This is a cruel and unjust dilemma to impose on low-income immigrant families. But the fact of the matter is, this proposed rule will not affect low-income immigrant families alone. It is already causing widespread fear amongst all immigrants–including their US Citizen children.

As a nonprofit that supports immigrants, MAF understands the importance of financial security and access to safe and affordable loan products. We recognize the resilience and resourcefulness displayed by all immigrants in the United States to overcome financial barriers. Not only is this proposed rule heartless and unjust, but it creates barriers to upward mobility for low-income and immigrant families. It is designed to deny these families a chance to thrive.

In over ten years of supporting thousands of low-income individuals, families, and immigrants to establish their credit, we know that an individual’s income and credit report alone doesn’t depict a clear picture of their entire financial situation.

MAF, like many other nonprofit direct service providers, will witness the harm DHS’ proposed rule related to public charge will cause on immigrant families. This proposed rule is an inhumane and punitive attack that will destroy the health and well-being of vulnerable immigrant families across the nation.

Last Wednesday, DHS recently published its proposed rule in the Federal Register, an act that marks the commencement of a 60-day public comment period that will close on Monday, December 10th. It is during this 60-day public comment period that our action against public charge matters more than ever. 

The fight is far from over and the time to act is now!

MAF is committed to advocating for our immigrant communities and opposing this repressive proposed rule. Whether you decide to use your voice during the public comments period or you’re interested to learn more about our work to support immigrants; we encourage you all to stand with us as allies in service to the fair and just treatment of all immigrant communities.

The Trump administration blatantly targeted immigrants by rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on September 5, 2017. Shocked and angered by his actions, we did not retreat. We stood up and fought back. With little time to waste, we quickly transformed ourselves into a rapid response grantmaker to help young immigrants through the uncertainty of the Trump-inflicted crisis.

We launched a campaign to enable eligible youth to renew their DACA status by offering grants of $495 to help cover application fees.

And when a federal judge in California issued an injunction that ruled the Trump administration’s decision unconstitutional months later, opening the door for more Dreamers to renew DACA, we kept on processing grants, giving young immigrants the support and love that this government was denying.

For college students making minimum wage, $495 can mean choosing between DACA or paying for rent. That’s a choice we didn’t want them to have to make.

That’s why we provided 7,600 fee assistance grants totaling $3.8 million to Dreamers across the country. This was a defining moment of resistance for DACA, and for ourselves.

As the federal courts continue to fight over the future of DACA, we stay vigilant. At this year’s Summit, activists, advocates, and allies across the country will come together to explore how our communities can thrive in Trump’s America. We believe Dreamers will help lead the way. We’re inviting them to share with us their stories of resilience, stories that can inspire and energize us all for the long haul.

Today we remember the work by highlighting stories from our DACA grant recipients that will motivate us for years to come.

At this year’s Summit, we’re bringing together thought leaders from a variety of sectors – nonprofit, finance, tech, and social sector. We can’t wait for the conversations and ideas that are bound to evolve from this incredible mix of advocates, policy makers, and creative thinkers. Check out a few reasons why our Lending Circles Providers are excited to attend this year’s Summit:

 

“I’m inspired to be attending the 2018 MAF Summit and to connect with other organizations that rise to meet the needs of the communities they serve and see the value of community-based solutions. I look forward to sharing successes, discussing challenges, and exploring opportunities to grow, innovate, and deepen our collective impact.”

– Natalie Zayas, Center for Changing Lives, Partner Advisory Council Member

 

 

“I’m very excited to be part of this event – to share knowledge, tools and successes – but also to absorb other members’ knowledge and expertise. I’m happy to be part of the LC community! I’ve known of informal “Tandas” since I was child from my parents, and now I can adapt this unique lending practice into a mainstream credit building program!”

– David Soto, Communidades Latinas Unidas en Servicio, Partner Advisory Council Member

 

 

“I attended the 2016 MAF Summit and thoroughly enjoyed it. In addition to sharing ideas with colleagues and obtaining useful information from the breakout sessions, it was a lot of fun!! I know this year’s Summit will be more of the same. Looking forward to it!!”

– Rob Lajoie, Peninsula Family Service, Partner Advisory Council Member

 

 

 

“I’m excited to attend this year’s summit because I look forward to the diverse and exciting ideas that will come about from the summit that will help the various communities we serve.”

– Luis Gomez, Youth Policy Institute, Partner Advisory Council Member

 

 

We will keep fighting

My soul hurts to hear babies crying inconsolably for their parents, begging for help. I think about these little ones each time I look at my children, hoping that we will stop this madness and reunite them with their mothers and fathers who braved through that long and dangerous journey millions of immigrants have taken before, looking for safety in America.   

But instead of refuge, they found a government that terrorized their innocence, ripping child away from parent and violating their human and legal rights in the process. Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy harkens back to slavery, Japanese internment camps, and even Nazi Germany. And for what? This administration callously calculated that taking babies hostage would ignite a crisis to further their political agenda.

They made a terrible mistake.

Trump’s new Executive Order did not end the crisis. The administration is still following “zero tolerance” policy, keeping asylum seekers in detention camps along the US/Mexico border. And they’re doing nothing to reunite the 2,300 children in US custody with their parents. Instead they’re following their game plan, using children as bargaining chips to pressure Congress to fund Trump’s wall, cut back on visas for legal immigrants, eliminate the diversity visa program, criminalize immigrants, and block any hope for a pathway to citizenship for millions of hardworking immigrants who drive our economy, but more importantly, who call the United States home.

We are not surprised by Trump’s actions, but we are outraged and activated. From the start, this administration has attacked immigrants in rhetoric calling them rapists, criminals, thugs or animals. His actions have been aligned with this rhetoric: terminating DACA and torpedoing bipartisan efforts to provide legislative solutions to Dreamers. Step by step, he’s dismantling any hope for immigrants and people of color to be full fledged members of our society.

Clearly, he is afraid of an emerging America that is rich and diverse, colorful and complex. He’s afraid of an America that does not look like him.

But no matter how much he may fear or hate us, he can’t get rid of us. His administration is working hard to make life miserable and impossible for immigrant families. They will criminalize, they will detain, they will deport, they will terrorize, they will confiscate whatever little we may have; but they can’t get rid of us.

We are resilient. We are survivors. And we are not alone. There are millions of people that are not afraid and who will fight with us for that emerging America that is just and expansive with plenty of room, hugs and resources for those children crying at the border right now.

Hear me say this: Trump will not have the last word. He will not dictate what America is, or what it will become.

At MAF, we are doubling down. We’re helping more legal permanent residents apply for citizenship. Over the years, we have financed over 8,000 U.S. citizenship and DACA applications and are ready to do thousands more in the months and years to come. There are 8.8 million legal permanent residents eligible for citizenship right now. We want to help them naturalize, to take that first step towards being able to vote in elections to come. And we’re more determined than ever to help immigrants improve their financial lives, to help them put down roots where they live, and feel confident that they belong.

They are part and parcel of who we are as a nation and we need their dreams, their energy to keep building that emerging America.

The cries heard around the world will not go unheeded. For the children ripped from their parents arms, and the millions of people at the margins of society, we will keep fighting for freedom and dignity and respect, ever bending that arc of the moral universe MLK once mentioned – until it breaks towards justice.

With love and gratitude,

Jose Quinonez

GIVE:

Give to the legal and nonprofit organizations working to defend the rights of immigrants in the courts and provide direct support to families on the border.

  • ACLU Foundation is a nonprofit defending the civil rights of individuals. Their Immigrant Rights Project defends the rights of immigrants and is currently litigating family separation issues.
  • Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) is a nonprofit providing legal services to immigrant children, families and refugees in Central and South Texas. They are helping get parents out of detention so that they can be reunited with their children.
  • Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) is a national policy advocacy organization with offices in ten cities, including San Francisco and Washington D.C. KIND trains pro bono lawyers to represent unaccompanied immigrant children.
  • Border Angels is a San Diego-based nonprofit focused on migrant rights, immigration reform, and the prevention of immigrant deaths along the border.
  • Stand with Immigrant Families: #HeretoStay is MAF’s campaign to raise funds to support DACA, Citizenship, TPS and Green card applications to prevent families from getting torn apart by changing immigration status.

ADVOCATE:

Call your member of Congress to support families staying together. Demand that Congress hear asylum claims and reunite the 2,300 children already separated from their parents.  

  • White House public comment line: 202-456-1111
  • Department of Justice public comment line: 202-353-1555
  • U.S. Senate Switchboard: 202-224-3121

RALLY:

Take to the streets and join a Families Belong Together rally near you on June 30

ENGAGE:

Show your support on social media (#FamiliesBelongTogether #KeepFamiliesTogether).

 

Being responsive is one of the major goals of our organization and our R&D team. After a successful DACA renewal fee assistance program, we surveyed clients to identify ways in which we could continue to provide the best support. There’s existing research on DACA recipients’ family and employment situations, as well as the benefits of DACA. We wanted to add to this discourse by learning more about our community’s hopes and dreams for the future.

That’s why we asked a three-part open-ended question: “If you had a pathway to U.S. citizenship, what would be your personal, financial, and career aspirations?”

We invited respondents to fill in aspirations in each of these three categories and 350 individuals (~80% of total respondents) replied. We systematically coded the text they inputted into themes, and assigned codes to 96% of the responses. In the end, we coded 46 different hopes and dreams people shared. This process helped us to see the diversity of the community we serve in a whole new way. Check out this infographic for a summary of our learnings. 

The top 10 aspirations of DACA recipients:

Theme 1: DACA recipients aspire to support their families and communities

Although we didn’t provide respondents with pre-selected options to choose from, we saw high convergence in responses. Giving back and helping others were key themes that emerged from these responses. Respondents talked about their aspirations to further support their families (46%), enter a helping profession (43%), and give back to their community (23%). This is especially significant given our prior findings that almost all respondents already support their families and their communities in some way. One respondent shared with us:

“My personal aspiration is to one day be so stable in life and be able to help not only my family back in Guatemala but also many of the children who are trying to get away from all the violence in our country. Give education to many of the children who can’t financially afford to go to school.” -21 year old, Arizona

Theme 2: DACA recipients are trying to create a sense of stability in their lives

Security was a frequent theme, with 46% of respondents saying that they hope to increase their financial stability and 30% saying they would want to worry less and lead a happy life. The top four ways DACA recipients want to create a sense of stability: 1) Pursue or complete education (39%), 2) Buy a home (33%), 3) Get a better quality job (33%) or 4) Own their own business (18%). One respondent told us:

“I want my family to not have to worry about being deported and going back to a place we haven’t been to in over 13 years. I also want my community to not always have to be in fear or speaking up for themselves in case of retaliation.” -20 year old, California

 

This data is helping us understand the motivations and aspirations inspiring a large segment of the community we serve. It’s helping us develop new products specifically designed to help our clients work toward their aspirations, including:

  • A webinar series to help clients explore options for self-employment, as a way to improve job security and career prospects.
  • *Coming soon* – We’re building a financial coaching app, which includes content geared towards helping people build their family’s financial stability.
  • Expanding this data group to include all loan clients: we’re now asking all clients to share financial aspirations – that way, we can keep a pulse on what matters to them today, and in the future.

Over the past couple months, we’ve heard many of our clients pour out their fears and concerns over their future. The threat of deportation looms large for so many immigrant families, causing real anxiety and stress not only on parents, but their children.

A new research article released by the University of Southern California’s Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, “Facing the Fear of Deportation“, visually captures the traumatic impact this has on families.

In today’s political climate, undocumented immigrant communities feel targeted and vulnerable, afraid that their families will get torn apart. The stress and anxiety this creates for the children of immigrants is especially high.

As we detailed in our series of posts unpacking data we collected on our DACA clients, the burden is already great for many families who are worried about meeting basic, daily financial needs.

But for many immigrant parents, getting mental health support for their children can be equally challenging. The search to receive the right kind of mental health services might only increase the feeling of stress and anxiety for the entire family.

We’re doing what we can at MAF to ensure that families have the potential for financial health and stability by creating access to financial products and services. But we need to keep building a broad base of partnerships so there are no barriers for immigrant families in receiving support from community-based organizations and agencies with the capacity to provide critical mental health services.

 

*All infographics created and published by the online MSW program at the University of Southern California.

A third federal judge has issued a new DACA ruling. While the first two injunctions re-opened the program for the foreseeable future, this order is the first time since September 5, 2017 that there’s been a glimmer of hope that the Department of Homeland Security could be ordered to resume taking new DACA applications – and not just accept renewals. This opens up new opportunities for eligible Dreamers who are struggling to make ends meet without a work permit and are in fear of their safety and stability. With no viable Dream Act making its way through congress, the current DACA program is one of the only rays of light.

Within 90 days – per the court order – we should know more from DHS and the courts about what will come to pass. But instead of just waiting, we are taking action to help more people adjust their immigration status as soon as they can. With rising ICE raids, toxic stress and fear rampant in immigrant families from so many heartbreaking cases of families being torn apart, we must do what we can to help right now.

This is how we resist: with new and expanded programs that meet the urgent needs of our communities. This is our way of saying: We are here. We are ready. Here’s an infographic that’s easy to share:

To recap:

  • DACA renewals continue to be accepted. If you are able to renew, we recommend doing it as soon as possible. If you need financial assistance, we’re here to help.
  • No new DACA applications are being accepted (but stay tuned – we will know more in the next 1-3 months).
  • You might be eligible for other ways to adjust your immigration status. We recommend connecting with an attorney through Immi.org to see if you might be eligible for legal permanent residence or other programs.

 

What we’re doing about it:

  • Offering 0% interest loans for DACA, TPS, Green Cards, Citizenship & more to California residents. Learn more.
  • Providing fee assistance & referrals to people facing extreme economic hardship. Contact us for more info.
  • Hosting trainings on starting your own business (a viable way to have a job if you don’t have a work permit). Sign up now.

 

How you can help:

  • Share the knowledge: Encourage family and friends to renew their DACA now or start preparing now in case DHS starts accepting new applications in the next few months.
  • Stand with Immigrants! Help us keep these programs going by donating or encouraging your friends and family to donate. Start a fundraiser with your friends or join a team of fundraisers and send a message to the world that you stand with immigrants!


 

To hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients and their families, a DACA permit represents hope. Hope for jobs, for family security, for a future worth fighting for. The threat of losing DACA has placed young people in a vulnerable financial position that’s keeping them and their families up at night. We asked DACA recipients across the nation: “Currently, what are your family’s top financial concerns?” 433* DACA recipients answered. Here’s what they said:

58% of DACA recipients worry about not being able to work

As demonstrated in MAF’s Hierarchy of Financial Needs, a stable income is the foundation of financial security. Income is essential to realizing your economic potential. Yet 58% of DACA recipients we surveyed are worried about not being able to work because of their legal status and 57% are worried about their family’s ability to cover basic living expenses. Maintaining economic stability is a top concern for them.

Here are the top areas of concern DACA recipients identified:


DACA recipients value opportunities to secure stable, quality employment

DACA recipients shared many different concerns with us openly through the survey about their education or how they might lose their jobs. We also heard from survey respondents that many of them are turning to self-employment as a means of supporting themselves.

With increasing ICE raids and mixed-status families being separated, DACA recipients have a lot to worry about. Yet we continue to see their resilience and creativity. This data helped MAF realize we can help DACA recipients secure stable, quality employment by providing programmatic support around starting their own businesses and working for themselves.


*For this particular question, respondents selected up to 13 answers that applied to them.

In this new political context, when our community told us that maintaining financial security was their top concern, we decided to invest in promoting self-employment –  we decided to invest in the ingenuity of our communities.

Mission Asset Fund recently debuted part one of a new four-part self-employment series. We designed this series to support the entrepreneurs as they navigate different self-employment options and set up their business. We’re excited to continue building resources that empower people to be their own boss.

What inspired us

MAF has always believed in building programs that respond to the community. So, when the Trump administration rescinded DACA in 2017, MAF responded with immediacy and resolve. Within weeks, we launched a nationwide fee assistance grant program to cover the USCIS filing fee for DACA renewals. As a series of new legal developments unfolded over the ensuing months, our work continued, and over the course of five months, MAF issued over 7,500 fee assistance grant checks across the nation. We later surveyed the recipients of our fee assistance grant program to learn more about how we can continue to build programs that meet their needs. Through our findings, we found that 76% of the individuals we surveyed were using DACA, and the accompanying work authorization, to pay for their family’s basic living expenses. We also heard that financial security was a top concern for individuals – in fact, 68% of those surveyed cited a worry about not being able to work because of legal status.

We wanted to build a program for communities across the nation who are facing financial uncertainty, and we believe that self-employment is an important option to consider, especially when traditional employment is not accessible.  

Explore Self-Employment: Discover Options to Work for Yourself

Part one of our webinar series, Explore Self-Employment: Discover Options to Work for Yourself, highlighted independent contracting, gig economy work, professional licenses, and how to start a business. We encourage you to check out some of the guides we created for these topics. Attendees also participated in self-reflection exercises to think about the intersection between their passions and their skillset, and plan the next steps in their self-employment journey – whether or not you’re planning to start a business, we encourage you to try out these reflection exercises

If you missed our live webinar, you can watch the webinar recording below:

Meet the entrepreneurs

We also featured stories from three inspiring entrepreneurs! Learn more about their stories below:

What’s next?

Part two of our webinar series, Being an Independent Contractor: Transforming your Skills into Self-Employment, will take place on Thursday, May 31 at 12 pm PT/3 pm ET. Don’t forget to register now or spread the word!

In “DACA=Better jobs, stable families,” we explored the impact that DACA has on job opportunities and family security. With a work permit and the ability to get education, it’s no surprise that DACA recipients are able to get better quality jobs and have a greater sense of belonging in the U.S. We wanted to dig deeper into the realities inside homes and living rooms across the country:

  • What roles do people with DACA often play in their families?
  • What impact does DACA have on their families?

So we asked DACA clients: “In the past 6 months, have you supported your family financially or helped them access resources in any of the following ways?” We provided nine options and an invitation to select all that applied. We received 431 responses clients, including one that indicated the respondent did not help support their family.

97% of DACA recipients said they support their family – most often by helping pay for household expenses

Nearly all of DACA recipients said they were helping their family financially or get access resources. The most common type of support? 74% contribute to household bills and other regular monthly expenses. Among many other sources of financial support, DACA recipients often also supported their family in non-financial ways. For example, 44% of respondents said they drove family members who don’t have a driver’s license.


The Multiplier effect: DACA recipients frequently open doors for their family members

As you can see below, DACA recipients described in their own words how much their families relied on them – for finances, transportation and more. We heard from recipients that DACA allowed them to access resources to support other members of their family and network. That in fact, DACA has a multiplicative effect: providing one person with protections and work permits impacts everyone they support financially and otherwise.

Our takeaway: personal financial security is not just about the individual. It’s closely linked to the financial security of your family, friends and community

This research shows us that there’s a very powerful social and familial network effect with DACA. When we research the effect a government program or immigration status has on one person, we also must think about the family. Especially when so many of our families are mixed status, better governmental protection and even an intermediate status like DACA can have a very positive effects on entire family networks. At MAF, this is leading us to think more about how we can support families in growing their collective financial wellness. Because engaging and leveraging your social network is an important and viable strategy for managing financial lives.

 

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