Microloans for Citizenship Applicants in Maryland
Microloan product ease attaining citizenship for legal immigrants in US
Microfinance Focus, November 23, 2011: A microloan product, launched by Citi Community Development and CASA de Maryland (CASA), a grassroots organization working with immigrants, ease pathway to citizenship for legal immigrants in the state of Maryland in United States. The citizenship microloan program will lower the financial barriers to naturalization while simultaneously building an individual's credit and financial literacy.
A pilot of the program is expected to move 125 legal immigrants to full citizenship. CASA's research has shown that one of the primary barriers to completing the naturalization process is the $680 naturalization fee and the inability for a low-income person to pay that cost over time, while also paying for supportive services such as English language or citizenship preparation classes. Reinforcing the research is the fact that when the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) last raised fees for naturalization in July 2007, applications for naturalization decreased by 67% in the 12 months following the fee increase.
Evidence shows that there is a significant economic advantage to becoming a fully naturalized citizen. A 2006 Urban Institute study found that, in the D.C. region, the household earnings of naturalized citizens were nearly double those of unauthorized immigrants and 15% higher than those of legal permanent residents (LPRs). Yet despite the economic incentive to naturalize, only 12% of Maryland's 120,000 eligible LPRs naturalized in 2009, and the number of LPRs naturalizing has increased by only about 1% annually over the past five years.
CASA will collaborate with two community development financial institutions (CDFI's), the Latino Economic Development Corporation (LEDC) and the Ethiopian Community Development Council Enterprise Development Group (EDG). The LEDC equips Latinos and other DC-area residents with the skills and financial tools to create a better future for their families and communities. The EDG serves low- and moderate-income residents of the Washington, DC-Baltimore metropolitan area, by providing access to loan capital for small businesses and a variety of other programs that help people build assets and achieve economic independence.