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With the Trump administration taking a tougher line on immigration and border security, a lot of groups have ramped up legal services for noncitizens. But when it comes to financial information and resources, a new gap may be emerging.

Families experiencing an immigration emergency may suddenly face thousands of dollars in attorney fees, bail and lost income if a breadwinner is detained.

That’s why the San Francisco-based Mission Asset Fund is planning to launch a new emergency program to support families in crisis. It’s a nonprofit that helps low-income people, often in immigrant communities, obtain financial services.

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The majority of Latino Americans aspire to homeownership. Community activists say so, and surveys bear them out: 70 percent of Hispanic respondents to the Zillow Housing Confidence Index Survey say owning their own home is necessary to live the American Dream.

Some organizations offer solutions like zero-interest loans that small groups of immigrants lend to one another, for the purpose of building credit. Their monthly payments are reported to credit bureaus, giving them access to mainstream lending so they don’t have to rely on payday loans.

Jose Quinonez is a 2016 MacArthur fellow who runs the Mission Asset Fund in San Francisco. Its lending circles model facilitates lending among small groups of immigrants for the purpose of building credit. The payments are reported to credit bureaus.

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On Thursday night, José Quiñonez, a 1998 graduate alumnus, kicked off the conference with the talk “Out of the Shadows: My American Story.” Quiñonez has a master’s in public affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

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Equity and inclusion in the tech economy

José Quiñonez emphasizes the role that technology can play in directly empowering poor immigrants whose finances, languages and familial ties stretch across national boundaries and cultures.

by MasterCard and New Deeply

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“This is money from the folks that are cleaning our houses, washing our dishes, people that are babysitting kids here as a way to help support their families back home,” said José A. Quiñonez, a MacArthur “genius” grant recipient whose organization helps the undocumented get access to financial services.

By James Dennin

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The Resistance

José Quiñonez’s nonprofit MAF (Mission Asset Fund), which pools members’ money together to provide zero-interest loans to the “financially invisible,” will soon expand statewide to lend money specifically earmarked for naturalization fees.

“Revolutions don’t start with cynics,” he says.

By Jason Madara and George McCalman

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From Tandas to Bank Loans

José Quiñonez created an organization to help unbanked low-income immigrants establish credit history to be able to get credit cards, take out loans, buy a car, or rent an apartment. The former undocumented immigrant works with credit bureaus to get them to accept the practice of tandas or cundinas and other informal lending circles. His organization operates in 17 states and his model is being used in many communities.

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“While no one quite knows what the ideal mix of alternative credit-reporting sources should be, many think that ultimately incorporating more data into the most-used credit reports will do more to help economically marginalized groups than to harm them. In other words, the potential downsides of alternative data might be worth the risk.”

By Gillian B. White

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“What MAF CEO Jose Quiñonez thought was a prank call was actually the news to inform him that he had won a MacArthur Fellowship, also known as the MacArthur Genius Grant. The fellowship provides pioneers in the arts and sciences a grant of $625,000 to use at their discretion. After learning all about Lending Circles, we chatted with MAF about what they’ve been up to since receiving the fellowship.”

By Bill O’Connor

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