Uniting paths: The intersection of migration, credit unions, and community

In the heart of El Paso, Texas, lies El Sagrado Corazon, a sanctuary for newly arrived migrants. My journey to this shelter, as part of the NCUF’s DE Workshop in October, coincided meaningfully with Hispanic Heritage Month, adding a layer of personal significance to the experience.

As I immersed myself in the shelter’s environment, I couldn’t help but reflect on the parallels with my own family’s narrative. The trials and tribulations of my parents’ migration to the United States, intertwined with my wife’s similar journey, resonated deeply. The arduous process of securing her permanent resident alien card and eventually her citizenship brought memories of struggles and triumphs. This introspection brought an intimate dimension to my volunteer work, illuminating the paths of countless others embarking on a similar journey.

The objective of our visit was to engage in a crucial discussion about the 12 development issues recognized as barriers to global economic growth and prosperity. The role of credit unions in mitigating these challenges was a focal point. Reflecting on my family’s journey, it became evident that immigrants in the United States face myriad obstacles, including hunger, health, housing, and transportation. El Sagrado Corazon and the broader El Paso community are actively addressing these challenges. Credit unions, I realized, hold immense potential to positively impact areas such as savings, credit, employment, inclusion, diversity, and equity, among others.

The journey to obtaining a green card for my wife has neither been swift nor inexpensive. Beginning in 2017 and stretching into November 2023, the process has been fraught with financial and emotional costs. The monetary expense alone approached $20,000, not accounting for the countless trips to our lawyer, time off work, and support from family members who cared for our children during our various travels. The emotional toll – stress, sadness, frustration, helplessness, and uncertainty – has been immeasurable.

This personal experience led me to contemplate the pivotal role credit unions could play. While not all immigration journeys may cost as much as ours, they invariably involve significant expenses. This realization opens up opportunities for credit unions to assist members through savings plans and lending programs tailored for such costs. Furthermore, partnerships with local nonprofits offering immigration resources could greatly benefit community members.

From an employee perspective, particularly for DACA recipients, the journey is equally challenging. The cost of renewing DACA status, a necessity every one or two years, begins at $495, excluding additional biometric screening and legal fees. For credit unions, investing in the well-being of their employees by covering or subsidizing these costs – either as a retention bonus or through low-cost loans – not only aids in employee retention but fosters an inclusive work environment.

In a serendipitous twist during the DE Workshop, my wife received news from our lawyer about the final steps in our immigration process. After six years and significant financial investment, we were nearing the end of our journey, though the final outcome remains uncertain. Throughout this period, the support from colleagues, employers, and friends in the credit union sector has been extraordinary. Their assistance, whether through resources, time, or writing letters of support, was invaluable in making us feel valued, seen, and heard.

This personal journey underscores the importance of credit unions understanding and addressing the unique needs of their staff and members. For those unsure of where to start, Humanidei can offer guidance. To my fellow credit union professionals navigating their own immigration journeys, I echo the empowering motto of the United Farm Workers: “Si Se Puede!” This phrase not only symbolizes hope but also serves as a reminder of the resilience and perseverance inherent in each of our stories.

 

Contact the author: Humanidei

Contact the author: Humanidei

Oscar Porras

Oscar Porras

Oscar Porras started his career in the credit union industry over 20 years ago. He has primarily worked with community members of modest needs, credit union professionals of diverse backgrounds, ... Web: https://humanidei.com Details