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PHOENIX, Ariz. – VIPs, for “very important paisanos”, is how leading Hispanic figure Juan Hernandez describes his fellow countrymen (paisanos). Hernandez is most well known for his highly visible role in the Mexican government under President Vicente Fox, but he prefers to be recognized for his passionate defense of the rights of immigrants. Hernandez recently left his cabinet post in the Mexican government to pursue his passion for helping Mexican nationals living abroad. He is asking credit unions to assist him in his efforts. On Nov. 11, Hernandez was a featured presenter at an International Roundtable hosted by the Texas and California leagues and the World Council of Credit Unions. The focus of the roundtable was to explore how credit unions in the border-states could work together to facilitate service to Mexicans on both sides of the border. Hernandez’ position is that credit unions have a great deal of passion for this endeavor, and a lot of information, but simply lack understanding. He hopes to be able to bridge the gap that exists between the Hispanic community and credit unions. “These (Mexicans) are the new American pioneers, and they share many of the same characteristics as the first pioneers: hardworking, strong family values and an entrepreneurial spirit. They love this country and the opportunities that are available to them here,” Hernandez, a first-generation Mexican-American descendent, states. “But unless they are brought into the financial mainstream, they will likely never fully realize the `American Dream’.” As not for profit cooperatives founded by immigrants, Hernandez asserts that credit unions are ideally suited to serve the financial service needs of the Hispanic community. “I am a credit union member myself and I would much prefer to see these hard working immigrants being serviced by credit unions as opposed to the local check casher,” Hernandez says. “These are people deserving of the services credit unions provide and I encourage all credit unions to open their doors to them.” The Texas and California credit union leagues have contracted Hernandez for the remainder of 2003, and his role is to share his knowledge and insight on how credit unions can better serve this growing market. Already he has addressed credit union leaders at several league-sponsored events, and is working with a number of credit unions individually. -

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