DALLAS -On September 30, 2002, U.S. Treasurer Rosario Marin andAssistant Administrator of the U.S. Agency for InternationalDevelopment Adolfo Franco announced a $500,000 initiative thatwould lower the cost of remittances being sent from the UnitedStates to Mexico and ensure more individuals on both sides of theborder have access to affordable financial services throughnot-for-profit credit unions. One year later to the date, officialsgathered at City Credit Union here to celebrate the successfulimplementation of this project. Caja Popular Mexicana, Mexico'slargest credit union, is now capable of receiving remittances fromover 3,000 International Remittance Network (IRnet) locations inthe United States. City Credit Union's seven branches will serve asremittance outlets for its Mexican members and other Mexicansliving or working in Dallas. “The credit union wants to help theHispanic community in Dallas move funds back to family members inMexico, as well as provide a safe place for their earnings,” saidPresident Mike Kelley. With 30,000 members, City Credit Unionserves individuals who live or work in Dallas or Ellis Counties,many of whom are Hispanic. Over the last several years, the creditunion has reached out to immigrants by accepting the matriculaconsular ID card, opening offices in lower-income communities andproviding culturally appropriate service to new immigrants. “We aretrying to help in our small way. Not all credit unions haveembraced the remittance service or the matricula. Some areconfusing our responsibility as financial service providers withthe responsibility of the INS. We are helping people of meagermeans who are shoved out of other places. That's where our nicheis,” said Mike Kelley. Most of the event's announcements were madein Spanish and were directed to viewers of a local Spanishtelevision network covering the event. Roel Ornelas, City CreditUnion chairman of the board, expressed the credit union's desire toassist the “unbanked” in the community. “We want to reach all theHispanics in Dallas to tell them to take advantage of this newremittance service. You now have many more points of service inMexico, where banks don't have branches.where banks don't want tohave branches. If you send money to your family in the morning,they can have it the same day, and with 6,000 total points ofservice, a distribution location may be only 15 minutes from yourfamily's home,” Ornelas said. “We want to foster the idea ofMexicans coming into our credit union,” he continued. “As membershere, you own the financial institution. You don't have to become amember of the credit union to send remittances, but we encourageyou to join, because it's a safe place to cash a check. And it's asafe place to keep your money instead of carrying it around in yourpocket. Alfredo Saldana, City of Dallas Deputy Chief of Police,echoed Ornelas' comments. “Carrying large amounts of cash sets youup to be a victim of robbery. Take advantage of these programs,” hesaid. Saldana and City Credit Union have partnered in the past toestablish a “Safe Banking in the Community” program. Dr. JuanHernandez, who assisted Mexican President Vicente Fox in pursuingaffordable remittance services, attended the event. “I am proud topromote this service to our new American pioneers,” said Hernandez.“Please compare a bank with the credit union, and then come here.If you want to send a remittance up to $1,000, it will only cost aflat fee of $10. The credit union will guarantee the exchange rate,and the recipient can receive the funds in dollars or pesos.”Remittance services are hopefully just the beginning of a mutuallybeneficial relationship between credit unions in Texas and Mexico,according to Alfonso Garcia Moreno, Caja Popular Mexicana'sdirector of corporate services. “This will build a tangiblerelationship that we hope to expand in the future. We want Mexicansto lose the fear of performing transactions in a credit union here.We want them to view this institution the same as they would afinancial institution in Mexico. In Mexico, members feel part oftheir financial institution as a member/owner. We would like creditunions in Texas to make the effort to make them feel the same way,by fostering trust, by helping them understand that the money theyput into the credit union will still be here when they come back.”CPM has worked very closely with Texas credit unions and the TexasCredit Union League over the past year to prepare for thesuccessful transfer of remittances. Operational testing of thesystem began in August, with the first live transactionsoriginating in Florida. After working through “minute” operationaldetails, CPM's Moreno said the service has been running smoothly.“During the first three weeks of testing, we received 530transactions in CPM locations for a total of $270,000. About 40% ofthese remittance recipients were not even CPM members. This hasbeen with no advertising,” he said. “Our vision for the future isto have a shared branching system between credit unions in Texasand Mexico. But first, we must help them feel comfortable with thecredit unions here.” CPM has a membership of 560,000 and combinedassets of US$526 million. It is ideally situated for thedistribution of remittances with most of its 330 branches in thehigh immigration states of Jalisco, Guanajuato and Oaxaca.According to Dave Grace, financial and regulatory affairs managerof World Council of Credit Unions, the entrance of Caja PopularMexicana to the existing IRnet distribution network providesMexicans access to remittances in over 80 rural cities in 15 statesthat were not currently being served by any of the major banks.-

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