Moving towards citizenship
Ceiba, Finanta, and Santander Bank are bringing Programa Adelante to Philadelphia, a financial pathway intended to break down barriers to attaining United States citizenship.
Becoming a citizen of the United States can be a complicated and expensive process. Initially, you must possess a green card, which alone generally costs upwards of $1,000 to obtain. After continuously living in the United States for 5 years, you can then begin to apply for citizenship. That is, if you can read, write, and speak English, understand United States history and government, and prove you are a good person of moral character by not getting in trouble with the law. And, of course, you will need an immigration lawyer, which are not cheap.
In May of 2017, Unidos US, formerly the National Council of La Raza, published the report Small Dollars for Big Change: Immigrant Financial Inclusion and Access to Credit. The report identified a “direct connection between access to small-dollar credit and the ability of certain immigrants to obtain legal status.” The report also notes that the fees to become a citizen have increased over 600% in the past decade, making financial support a necessity now more than ever.
For just this reason Ceiba, Finanta, and Santander Bank have come together with Programa Adelante, the first one of this kind not only in Philadelphia, but in all Pennsylvania.
This program will help people save money through a secured loan account with Santander Bank; Ceiba will offer immigration and financial workshops to participants so they may better understand these systems in the United States. Through participation people will build their credit scores to ensure future financial opportunities.
“Take people and put them in a place where they start saving money, build their credit, and gain financial and civil rights awareness. Those three ingredients act as a catalyst to move people forward from where they are in the immigration process,” Will González, CEO of Ceiba, said. "Citizenship is the ultimate, but we know some people are looking for DACA, some people are in-between, some people are trying to bring their family members over, and this costs money.”
Programa Adelante runs for 9 months and is coordinated by Taylor De La Peña, who is well versed in the many aspects of paths to citizenship in the United States. The program is for people in many stages of pursuing the many forms of leally staying in the United States. Along with traditional pathways to citizenship, the program also offers resources for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, a program that grants temporarily legal status to those who entered the country in their youth.
For those who need to renew their DACA in 2018 and will have to pay the fee, around $500, “this is a great program because you can save during that time, increase your credit score, increase your financial knowledge, and by the time you have to apply you already have the money,” De La Peña said.
By saving, De La Peña is referring to the secured loan Programa Adelante provides. A secured loan requires some form of asset be provided to a bank to ‘secure’ the loan. In the case of this program, the loan is secured by putting money into an account on a predetermined basis, with some rewards. Full participation and depositing all money on time as planned will result in up to an additional $300 to individuals.
“Instead of receiving the money up front it is more of a savings program. Every payment they make, every deposit they make, is getting reported to the credit bureau so it is an opportunity to raise their credit score,” De La Peña said.
Raising a credit score means being able to secure financing in the future, for things like a car, home, or small business venture. For Rafael Collazo, Director of Political Campaigns at Unidos US, it is about time these kinds of programs are offered to the Latino and Hispanic community in Philadelphia, residents that have put their hard work into continuing to build the U.S.
The first Info Session for Program Adelante is scheduled for this Wednesday, August 23, 2017, at 6PM, at Ceiba, located at 174 W Diamond St Philadelphia PA 19122.
For more information, people should call Ceiba at 215-634-7245.