As co-chair of CRC’s Here to Stay Campaign and an avid advocate for immigrant youth financial access, I believe that immigrant youth have the capability to become financially stable and build their assets if, and only if, they are given the support they need through efficient systems and products. If we aspire for a more equitable economy, then we must start with immigrant youth.
The discussion on the intersectionality of being both an immigrant and a young person has yet to surface, especially within the context of exclusion from efficient financial access. When immigrant exclusion is examined, the discourse often focuses on the ‘adult life’ and thus ‘adult problems,’ such as the struggle to pay bills, or access to loans, credit, and mortgages – as if youth are not already directly affected and will not one day be adults addressing similar issues themselves.
As presented in CRC’s report, Here to Stay: Promoting Financial Security and Economic Opportunity for Immigrants in California, 95% of immigrant respondents reported needing better access to credit (like small business loans) to start a business. Similarly, specific stories have surfaced about the marginalizing of the ‘American Dream’ for immigrant youth and families alike. They may have dreams to attend college, but they don’t have access to sustainable financial products that can make those dreams into reality.
Because immigrants are unable to access safe products, they may opt for predatory products, whether it’s payday lenders with their 400% interest rates, or ‘more accredited’ financial institutions and banks that charge ITIN holders and undocumented people higher interest rates on their mortgage loans.
These threatening products can have a deep effect, especially on immigrant youth who, at such a young age, are already facing exclusion and are then led down a rabbit hole of not trusting financial institutions. This means they have less access to capital due to the lack of culturally relevant understanding and supports.
In taking strides towards immigrant financial inclusion overall, including immigrant youth inclusion, CRC’s Here to Stay Campaign has met with senior staff in Oakland City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan’s and Senator Kamala Harris’s offices in San Francisco. Both parties expressed concerns for these important issues and their hopes for CRC’s Here to Stay Campaign to change the economic climate to a more just one for immigrants.
As Youth Engagement Manager for MyPath located in the Mission District, we work directly with young people who identify as both an immigrant and youth. As we have done our research on the space that we occupy, we found that between 16th Street and 24th Street on Mission Street, there are 24 predatory services and only four banking institutions. This leads us to believe that there is a call not only for financial education, but also an even greater call for proper banking resources to achieve true financial inclusion for immigrant youth.
Youth Engagement Manager
Co-Chair of CRC’s Here to Stay Campaign