MAF’s 12 Data Points of Christmas

Happy Holidays, from our MAF familia to yours!

As the year comes to a close, we are reflecting not only on 2018, but on one decade of living our values in the community. Over the past 10 years, MAF has provided Lending Circles, immigration and business loans, DACA fee assistance, and financial coaching to over 15,000 people — scaling this impact across the country with the help of technology and over 60 nonprofit partners.

Now we’re going even further: Through these past ten years, we have gathered invaluable data and insights from people’s financial lives. With a vast dataset on how people manage to survive and thrive under the most difficult circumstances, we are turning our research insights into actionable lessons for the field.

We’re celebrating this holiday season by sharing some insights that stood out to us.

We hope you enjoy MAF’s 12 Data Points of Christmas: 

And check out our short report, featuring these findings and more.

You can stay in touch with MAF’s research team by following #MAFInsights on social media and at missionassetfund.org/research.

Rosa’s Story: An Advocate’s Journey

“My name is Rosa, and I received a check from you within only days of my request. You understand that this issue is incredibly time sensitive, and you did not neglect nor treat me as just a number. As a DACA recipient, this is something I have grown accustomed to, being treated as a number. I am one of 800,000. But through your act of kindness and sense of purpose for something greater than yourself, you demonstrated to me that I am more than a number. I am a person, I am a student, I am a friend.”

We first met Rosa in September 2017. She was a recipient of MAF’s DACA fee assistance grant, and she sent us this message just a few weeks after our campaign began. Her words stayed with us, particularly this line — I am more than a number. I am a person, I am a student, I am a friend.

Rosa’s immigration story challenges one dimensional narratives about undocumented immigrant communities in the U.S.

Rosa’s family moved from South Korea to Canada at age three. Just as her family made their second move from Canada to the United States, they were granted Canadian citizenship. By then, they had settled in Temecula, California. As a high schooler in Southern California, Rosa began to understand the limitations that her immigration status placed on her.

“The first time I realized how this whole system affected me was in high school. All my friends were getting jobs, getting a license, and my mom told me that I couldn’t do that because I didn’t have a social security number.”

During her junior year of high school, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was announced. Her family heard about DACA from their church community, and she rushed to apply.

In early 2014, she received notice that her DACA application had been approved. Very soon after, she hit a number of teenage milestones, like getting her driver’s license and finding her first job. Eventually, she received her acceptance letter to the University of California, San Diego (UCSD).

At UCSD, Rosa grew into her voice as an advocate for the immigrant community.

While in school, Rosa connected with a larger community of DACA recipients and allies and realized that she was not alone in her experiences. As a Political Science major, she learned about a number of useful frameworks and tools — specifically, an understanding of the the political process — that shaped her identity as an advocate. One class in particular, an American politics class, taught Rosa about the long term effects of institutional aggressions like gerrymandering and redlining, and how these policies could have crippling long term effects on communities for generations.

During her third year at UCSD, the Trump administration announced its decision to rescind DACA. The rescission created a lot of chaos, anger, and frustration, but Rosa was also inspired and energized by the overwhelming number of organizations that supported her as she rushed to submit her DACA renewal application. In particular, the Undocumented Student Center at UCSD played a critical role in ensuring that she always knew what next steps to take. In fact, the Undocumented Student Center connected her to a number of other resources, including Mission Asset Fund’s DACA fee assistance grant.

“I’m so used to anything having to do with immigration taking forever – waiting, not knowing, etc. Throughout this process, everyone came together so quickly — the immigration lawyer, the director of the UC Immigration Center, Mission Asset Fund — because they understood the urgency of the situation. These organizations realized the urgency even before I did.”

After graduating from UCSD in 2018, the Council of Korean Americans sponsored a work opportunity for Rosa in the public service sector. She met with the first Korean American congressman in New York and asked him ‘what concrete steps are you taking to protect Dreamers?’ At first, he danced around the subject and failed to provide a firm answer. Ultimately, the congressman said this: politicians don’t want to invest in DACA recipients because they can’t vote, and the ultimate goal of politicians is to increase their constituencies.

“That’s the reality of it. I realized that Dreamers need to be speaking out about their stories in order for Citizens to care and vote.”

Rosa understands the frustrating realities of being an advocate without the ability to vote. This is exactly why Rosa has so admirably shared her own story with us.

“The most powerful way to convey my message is to show people who I am.”

Throughout the years, Rosa’s friends have played an important role in her life. Those who know her best know her as a neighbor, a childhood friend, and a fellow dancer. Lately, her friends have seen her navigate a lot of uncertainty, and she has used this opportunity to bring them into the conversation about how they can support her and others who are facing similar situations.

“I recently opened up to my friends about my feelings with the midterm elections and my fears for my future. I received a great deal of responsiveness and love from my friends, and they promised to vote in the midterm elections when they normally wouldn’t have.”

Rosa’s story offers many valuable insights. Her story allows us to reflect on what tools we can each use to advocate for policies that uplift immigrant communities. Her story warns us to remain cautious and critical of communicating one dimensional narratives about communities. Her story also highlights a well known fact — that immigrant communities thrive even within oppressive limits.

“It’s this double-edged sword because I am able to live this ‘normal’ life’. Yes, I have access to certain opportunities, but there’s a lot that I can’t do. I can’t leave the country. I can’t see my family for the holidays. I can’t guarantee that I’ll still be here in three years. I can’t plan my future. I can’t solidify my career. I can’t keep my options narrow. These are much broader limitations that people don’t necessarily realize.”

Rosa plans to continue building her voice as an advocate by pursuing an education in public interest law. Her own experiences have shed light on the importance of the law and the ways in which the law can be applied to either help or hurt people.

“I want to be able to use the law to help the disenfranchised, just as the law has at times done for me.”

During our conversation with Rosa, we asked her what messages she wanted to convey to both Citizens and the DACA community.

To Citizens:

“I want them to know that there’s probably one Dreamer out there that they know personally, but who may be too afraid to come out of the shadows because of the current political climate. This is where citizens can verbally speak out and show their support for Dreamers.”

To the DACA community:

“Regardless of how scary the situation may seem, we are still lucky. We have an EAD {employment authorization document} and a social security number, so we should be using that to the best of our potential. We should use these tools not just to fit in with the status quo, but to help others because we know what it’s like when the system is against us .”

Public Charge Statement Release: A Barrier to Upward Mobility for Immigrant Families

MAF recently submitted the below statement against the proposed public charge rule. We would like to encourage you all to also make your voice heard before the public comment period closes on December 10th. The Protecting Immigrant Families Coalition has designed an online comment portal to make the public comment process easier.

Mission Asset Fund (MAF) strongly opposes the proposed public charge rule because of the irreversible harm that it will have on immigrant families all across the nation. In over ten years, MAF has supported thousands of low-income individuals, families, and immigrants gain access to safe and affordable loan products. While we are based in San Francisco, CA our nonprofit’s programs and services have led positive impact in communities all across America.

As a direct service provider, we are already witnessing the fear that this proposed rule is causing in the lives of our clients; many whom are immigrant families that use programs like CalFresh to help keep food on the table. In the Bay Area alone, which includes nine different counties, there are more than 440,400 noncitizens in families who participate in cash and noncash benefit programs currently being considered in the proposed rule’s public charge determination. 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.

We should be putting all of our efforts into maximizing the opportunity for all to thrive in our country, regardless of their immigration or financial status. Instead, this proposed rule would set forth short-sided standards when making public charge determinations. MAF understands the importance of financial security and we know that an individual’s income and credit report alone doesn’t depict a clear picture of their entire financial situation. In fact, within 6 to 12 months of starting our program, nearly one-fifth of MAF’s Lending Circles clients are able to escape subprime credit scores. This only goes to show that there are many different factors that play a role in determining someone’s low credit score and that it would be unfair to include it as a factor for deciding an individual’s immigration status.  

MAF recognizes the resilience and resourcefulness displayed by all immigrants in America to overcome barriers. Not only is this proposed rule heartless and unjust, but it creates barriers to upward mobility for immigrant families. The proposed changes to public charge deviate from the founding spirit of America. Immigrants are and will always continue to be important in the fabric of our communities. Instead of embracing and respecting the diverse backgrounds of all immigrants, this proposed rule is an extension of anti-immigrant policies at the federal level that further perpetuates a false narrative of immigrants.  

Like many other nonprofit direct service providers, MAF wants to ensure that the promise of our country is made true for everyone regardless of their origins or financial status. As long-standing advocates, we will never support a policy that further harms vulnerable immigrant families in America. With the well-being of our communities and the success of our nation in mind, we urge the Department of Homeland Security to withdraw its proposed changes to the public charge rule.

In solidarity,

Mission Asset Fund (MAF)

Introducing MAF’s new mobile app: MyMAF

MAF is excited to announce the launch of its new mobile app, MyMAF. MyMAF is a virtual financial coach designed to help low-income and immigrant families achieve their dreams and help MAF’s clients succeed financially in our programs.

We’ll be celebrating the launch of the MyMAF app, the MAF Lab’s first fintech product, on December 7th. Join us for the launch party to view a demo of MyMAF and learn about the inspiration for its development, from idea to fruition.

MyMAF fills an unmet need for the communities MAF serves.

Since day one, MAF’s goal has been to build pathways that allow hardworking families to realize their full economic potential. MAF’s seminal Lending Circles program has helped clients achieve their financial goals by building credit, but we’ve always had a larger vision to support our clients’ financial lives across their hierarchy of financial needs. We found financial coaching to be one of the most effective mechanisms to help people achieve their goals. However, in-person coaching is often resource intensive (for both coaches and clients) and difficult to scale. We realized that we could use the power of technology to bring financial coaching to more people in our community and serve their needs in a deeper way.

With MyMAF, members of our community are now able to obtain essential financial information and coaching at the reach of their fingertips.

MyMAF was built from MAF’s core values.

MAF’s work is founded on a few core values:

  • We meet people where they are, not where we think they should be
  • We build on what people have, no matter the shape or size
  • We respect the diverse communities we serve and recognize their hidden strengths

These values have informed the development of MAF’s programs and products from the beginning; they are also the foundations of this new app.

To meet clients where they are in their financial journey, we first recognize that our clients’ financial lives are inseparable from their complex backgrounds and personal aspirations. For example, a client without a Social Security Number has to take a different path for doing something as seemingly simple as pulling their credit report or applying for a credit card. An important goal of the app is to remove the stress from financial planning and help clients recognize that this is a tool to help them achieve their dreams. This is done at their convenience, allowing clients to decide when and where they plan and update personal financial goals – whether at home, waiting for the bus, or any other moment in their busy lives. As an added engagement feature, clients can interact with a virtual financial coach and receive financial tips and tricks to keep in mind as they navigate their journey with MyMAF. By building for clients’ unique contexts, MAF sets the stage for personal finance to feel empowering.

To respect our clients as the experts in their own lives, MyMAF gives clients the autonomy to direct their financial journey. Clients decide where they want to begin, whether it’s learning about credit or watching a video about exploring their investment options. The app also gives clients the option of choosing from 70+ action items to work towards, providing clients with a structure to create their own action plan. The app empowers clients to set the agenda based on what is most relevant to them and supports them with resources, tips, and motivation to get to their goal.

To build on our clients’ strengths, the app takes inspiration from what clients are already doing to manage their financial lives. Much like Lending Circles, the tips and action items in the app reflect informal strategies that clients currently use to overcome their financial barriers. This app gives clients the ability to choose from a wide breadth of options that are already working for them, rather than prescribing choices that don’t fit their contexts.

The author (R&D Lab Director) and UX/UI Designer test a prototype of MyMAF with a client.

MyMAF was built using evidence-based principles.

The MAF Lab, Mission Asset Fund’s R&D team, is committed to building products using design thinking, the industry standard for product development teams. Based on conversations with clients and MAFistas who have worked in this community for years, we identified the unique painpoints that our clients experience that other products don’t help them address. We then built and tested prototypes of the app’s features with 40+ users in Spanish and English, iterating those designs until we got all the details just right. Here’s the MAF Lab process we followed:

This process helped us identify and build features in the app that distinctly serve our clients. For example, during our user discovery process, we learned that some of our bilingual clients wanted the flexibility of accessing resources in both English and Spanish. To address this, we made the app available in both languages with the ability to easily switch between the two. The process for launching MyMAF app is one we plan to continue following in-house to develop new products and programs.

Lastly, evidence about effective financial coaching influenced the structure of MyMAF. Research shows that financial education is not sufficient to motivate behavior change; education must be tied to action. MAF incorporated this principle into the design of the app by placing action items after educational content to mirror users’ mental models of creating financial plans – and by sending motivating reminders to encourage users to stay on track with their financial plans. These design elements nudge clients to most effectively realize their financial goals.

MAF is built from the community, for the community.

By involving users in every step of our process, we sought to recognize the unique cultural background of our clients through the app.

MAF’s 10 years of serving low-income and immigrant families was foundational to developing the app. For example, our in-house client services team wrote all the content in our app, to address the questions they have been hearing in working with the community. For example, we offered users tips to help our clients answer questions like “How do I protect my finances if a family member is deported?” and issues like what steps to take when sending a money transfer to family or friends outside the U.S.  

MAF also designed the app to make our clients feel seen. MyMAF includes avatars, created by a designer from Mexico City, that reflect the faces of the diverse communities we serve. The app also includes photographs of real clients taken by our in-house designer and resident photographer. When we tested the app, the images were the first thing many clients noticed. Many told us that they identified with the people represented on the home screen and in the photos. This emotional connection to MyMAF will likely motivate our clients to continue engaging with the app’s financial tools.

Avatars in MyMAF to represent the community MAF serves

We’re just getting started.

MyMAF is a continuously improving product. We’re excited to get the app in the hands of our clients and hear their feedback as they use the app. We’re also measuring app usage and financial outcomes, to test our assumptions about the impact the app will have. Based on what we’ve learned so far, we’re already working on creating MyMAF 2.0 to give users more targeted tools to help them achieve their financial goals and make MAF’s financial products more broadly accessible.

Our plan is to continue iterating MyMAF to financially empower the low-income and immigrant families we serve nationally.

We also want to thank the philanthropic supporters of MyMAF: JPMorgan Chase Foundation, Tipping Point Community Foundation, Capital One, Twilio, and individual donors across the country.

Public Charge: An Attack on All Immigrants

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.

What Resistance Looks Like: MAF’s DACA Campaign, a Year Later

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.

Why We’re Excited for the 2018 MAF Summit

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).

 

In Their Own Words: The Hopes of Dreamers

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.

Deportation, Stress, and Fear

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.

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