As the president and Congress continue to hash out immigration reform, the $25.5 million Manatee Community Federal Credit Union in Bradenton, Fla., is already working on ways members of its community can afford to become citizens.
Manatee has teamed with the Jaensch Immigration Law firm in Sarasota, Fla., to allow immigrants to begin preparing for the costs of reform such as penalties and naturalization fees.
“Manatee was chartered to serve the low wage earning agricultural employees of the Tropicana Company,” said Sherod Halliburton, executive vice president for strategic initiatives at Manatee FCU.
“As a result of the credit union’s long history of successfully meeting the needs of agricultural workers and of underserved Latinos who make their living in the agricultural industry it’s a natural fit. We stand behind the residents of this community,” Halliburton said.
A February 2013 report from the Pew Hispanic Center said there may be as many as 11 million immigrants in the country illegally. The report also suggests that 20% of the 8.5 million now eligible for citizenship have not sought it because of the high cost.
The Senate is now considering a bill that imposes penalties of up to $2,000 per person over 12 years plus application fees. In addition, immigrants may have to pay back taxes, lawyer fees and other costs to gain a lawful status in the U.S.
“The members of our community are striving to make a better life for themselves,” Halliburton said. “And we want to help them any way that we can.”
Halliburton said that with proper identification – which can include the Matrícula Consular – the program enables an immigrant or family member to establish credit or improve a credit score to be eligible for future loans.
Eligible immigrants will be able to open a credit union account and receive a secured loan for $1,000, with the loan proceeds remaining on deposit as the loan recipient pays back the loan and interest.
A payment history is established, and the loan proceeds may be used for immigration-related expenses when paid off.
“The price will be well worth it, since they will be able to live, work and study in the U.S., travel internationally, and get driver’s licenses,” said P. Christopher Jaensch of Jaensch Immigration Law Firm. “But, it will be a costly process over a 10- to 12-year period. A credit union may be the best partner they have to help them achieve this critical financial goal.”