Citizenship is Key to Economic Integration for Latinos

Written by

Madhu Vulimiri
Madhu Vulimiri Madhu Vulimiri is a research intern at Global Policy Solutions. She is studying Health Policy and Management at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and is originally from Morrisville, North Carolina. Madhu is passionate about reducing health disparities in underserved communities.

The concept of a “path to citizenship” might be more than just a hopeful buzzword for Latino immigrants. It may be the path to reducing economic disparities for the growing population of Latinos in the United States.

A new report by the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) titled “Latino Financial Access and Inclusion,” presents the results of a survey of over 1,000 low-income Latinos in California on their use of financial products and services in the community, experiences with financial institutions, and use of new banking technology.

At a recent event to highlight the report’s findings, Janis Bowdler, Director of Economic Policy at NCLR, reported that naturalized citizens have more meaningful economic opportunities than their non-citizen counterparts. Naturalized citizens are more likely to be financially engaged, use bank accounts and credit cards, and tend to put away more savings for the future.

Unfortunately, these benefits are lost upon nearly 8.5 million Latino immigrants who are eligible for naturalization but have not yet sought citizenship. According to the Pew Research Hispanic Center, about 94 percent of Latinos who cited administrative barriers said the cost of the naturalization process (about $680) is a major barrier to U.S. citizenship. During the release event, Raul Raymundo, CEO of The Resurrection Project, recommended that the Department of Homeland Security evaluate the cost of applying for citizenship and implement a sliding scale fee that reflects the economic realities of Latino families.

Regardless of policy changes in Washington, banks are stepping up to empower Latino immigrants in their communities. Citi Global has been recognized for launching, among others, Citizenship Maryland, an initiative that offers microloans to permanent residents eligible for U.S. citizenship.

“Banks are making significant strides to increase access to financial institutions, by opening video branches, hiring bilingual staff, and having extended hours,” stated Corey Carlisle, Senior Vice President at the American Bankers Association.

These recommendations for policymakers, financial institutions, and community organizations alike come at a critical period in immigration policy. As the immigration reform bill hits the Senate floor this week, this report confirms the importance of forging a strong path to citizenship, one that ensures both civic and economic integration of Latino immigrants into our society.

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