President Obama’s recent Executive Order on immigration will have a significant impact on 4-5 million immigrants who are at present living in this country illegally. I’m not interested in discussing the politics of his action, so no need to read on if you’re looking for that! Rather, I want to go over what I think will become a key challenge for immigrants who wish to participate moving forward: the cost.
This is nothing new. Ever since our founding in ‘09 we’ve been doing loans to cover the cost of applying for US citizenship–$680 to the government plus legal fees. For many low-income families, that fee is simply too high; in fact, I estimate that there are around 700,000 to 800,000 legal permanent residents in this country who are eligible for citizenship and don’t begin the process due to cost.
We don’t yet know the details of how the Executive Order will be implemented, but it is certain that the application will have a direct cost and that many people will also need legal advice, as noted by a recent NPR story titled ”Executive Order On Immigration Creates Demand For Legal Advice.” This means that even if the application fee is extremely low, many families won’t be able to apply because they won’t be able to afford legal advice, and there are simply not enough pro bono lawyers and law clinics to meet the need.
I therefore think that there’s a tremendous opportunity for Capital Good Fund to offer loans to cover these costs. I wouldn’t be surprised if anywhere from 500,000 to over 1 million people found themselves in the position of needing a loan in order to “come out of the shadows,” and I’ve no doubt that predatory lenders are chomping at the bit to take advantage of them. Over the years I’ve seen our immigration loan portfolio perform extremely well–hard-working immigrants make great borrowers–and I would love nothing more than to deliver thousands, if not tens of thousands, of these loans.
We’ll stay on top of development as they happen, and rest assured that we will be at the ready to resolve the financial implications of the President’s Executive Order as they arise.