Capital Good Fund’s Low Interest Loans Boost For Immigrants

For Vantanna Tarver – a 37-year-old Tampa resident – the cost of reuniting with her Jamaican boyfriend after he was taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement was high.

$ 4,000.

This is the amount of bond Tarver had to secure to get her boyfriend out of detention – an amount she couldn’t afford to pay with the income she earns from two cleaning jobs.

“It was just very expensive,” she said.

To raise the money, Tarver turned to Capital Good Fund, a nonprofit lender that helps members of working-class immigrant communities navigate the expenses and complexities of the U.S. immigration system.

“When I got the loan, it took a lot of weight off me. It was a miracle, “she said.” I don’t think it would have come out any other way unless I was selling things to a pawnshop, which I didn’t want to do. ”

Now free, Tarver’s boyfriend awaits his next court date, which will determine if he will be allowed to stay in the United States

“It was a huge relief for both of us when he was able to get out,” Tarver said.

LOW INTEREST IMMIGRATION LOANS

Immigration procedures – including petitioning family members abroad and filing green card applications with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) – can easily generate invoices at four or more digits, especially when lawyers are called in to help navigate a notoriously complex legal system.

The high costs of high-stakes proceedings can push desperate, low-income immigrants to fall prey to fraudulent notarial schemes, or borrowing from payday and high-interest lenders that leave consumers trapped in debt spirals. In Florida, these loans charge on average 278 percent annual interest, accumulating hundreds of millions of dollars in fresh every year.

Capital Good Fund, a Rhode Island-based nonprofit that offers many types of personal loans, is promoting itself as a better non-predatory alternative.

The organization’s immigration loans range from $ 700 to $ 20,000, with annual interest rates ranging from 16 to 24 percent.

The money can be used to cover almost any immigration-related expense, including USCIS filing fees and legal representation fees – a crucial investment for those involved in complex proceedings such as defense against the eviction or family petitions. Borrowers like Tarver can also use loans to pay off immigration detention obligations. Those on average about $ 7,700 at the Krome ICE Detention Center in Miami-Dade.

“The use of the money itself can make the difference between the terror of being evicted and being able to live and work here legally,” said Andy Posner, Founder and CEO of Capital Good Fund. “The immediate benefit is to feel safe in this country. “Immigrants, whether documented or not, are eligible for the loan.

“We will lend regardless of immigration status,” Posner said. “We are not asking.”

Since its inception in 2009, Capital Good Fund has loaned a total of approximately $ 9.9 million. While immigration loans are a small part of that number – around 12% – they are a significant part of the nonprofit’s operations in Florida, which began in 2017.

Of the 271 immigration loans that Capital Good Fund has funded in its business history, 187 have been granted to clients in Florida. Other states immigration loans are available include Rhode Island, Delaware, and Illinois.

To qualify, borrowers must visit the association’s website, available in English and Spanish, and submit two months of bank statements, along with a referral form from an immigration lawyer and a copy. government-issued ID. About 40 percent of requests are approved.

To better accommodate Spanish speakers, the company’s employees are bilingual. Processing takes two business days.

“We are competing with a lot of payday lenders who are much more expensive but very fast, so we have to be as fast as possible,” Posner said.

As the Trump administration prepares to raise the price of key immigration benefits – a recent proposal would increase the fees associated with permanent residence and legal citizenship applications from 79 and 83 percent, respectively – immigration finance services like Capital Good Fund may soon increase in demand.

IMMIGRATION LAWYERS BELIEVE

To help immigration loans gain traction in hard-to-reach immigrant communities, Capital Good Fund has partnered with a network of certified lawyers and not-for-profit legal organizations, who feature the service. to customers as a way to help cover the cost of fees.

The lawyers see the arrangement as a win-win. They receive payment for their services up front, and immigrants gain access to the kind of legal resources that make a successful resolution of their immigration case more likely.

Christian Veras, an immigration lawyer based in Miami Gardens, has worked with Capital Good Fund for the past three years. He says clients who do not have enough funds to prepay for his services represent “a large portion” of his clientele.

“Before, there really was no solution for customers who needed the money to hold me back, but just couldn’t find it,” Veras said. “So it’s just a lifeline for them. Otherwise it’s a matter of choosing what to do. Are you going to pay rent this month or are you going to hire a lawyer to help your family?”

Immigrants with lawyers like Veras have been proven that he is doing better at each stage of the legal process only those who are not represented.

But affordability issues may push some to move away from certified lawyers and to cheaper “notaries”, scammers. not authorized to provide legal advice who can, in addition to stealing customers’ money, also seriously compromise their immigration record.

“In South Florida it’s extremely common to see a lot of issues with notary filings. The real problem is that they are not legal representatives; they often don’t know the legal consequences of what they file and a very small mistake could cost you a lot of money to fix, ”said Elina Magaly Santana, a Miami-based immigration lawyer who sits at Board of Directors of Capital Good Fund. “I always tell people: ‘lo barato caro sale. ‘”

What makes people vulnerable to scams is that “there really aren’t a lot of viable alternatives when you can’t afford a lawyer,” Santana said. “There are a lot of horror stories out there.”

Still, Veras and Santana say there is a lot of work to be done before Capital Good Fund loans are no longer widely accepted in the immigrant community. The organization’s relatively low approval rate for loans – it’s 40% – puts some off, they explained, as does the fact that a nonprofit lender is a strange concept to many.

“People haven’t quite got used to the idea that you can have this type of loan. They often prefer to borrow from friends and family, ”Santana said. “I want more of my clients to take advantage of this option. … It is stimulating for them to be able to finance themselves in this way.

Sheyla Velazquez, a Venezuelan immigrant now based in Jupiter, agrees.

A little over two years ago, she obtained a loan of $ 4,000 from Capital Good Fund to cover all costs associated with applying for a green card. She said she reportedly struggled to find the necessary funds from the income she received from making deliveries on Uber Eats.

“You know, when you come to the United States, you start from scratch,” she said. “You have to work so hard to pay rent, car payments, insurance, so many other kinds of expenses. The fact that there is a way to make the immigration process faster and easier is a huge plus for us.

This story was originally published February 20, 2020 11:57 am.

Lautaro Grinspan is a bilingual reporter for the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald. He is also a member of the Report for America Corps. Lautaro Grinspan is a bilingual periodista for the Nuevo Herald and the Miami Herald, as well as the miembro of Report for America.

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