Kristen McGuire | Development and Communications Manager | The Financial Clinic
It costs $725 to apply for citizenship. This of course does not account for the cost of legal fees, English and civics classes, or the time taken away from work to accomplish these things. For the average family of four, this feels like a nearly impossible financial goal: if all four family members were to apply, they would need to save nearly $3,000 for the application fees alone. As reported by UnidosUS (formerly NCLR), more than half of eligible noncitizens cite unaffordability as a primary reason for why they are not yet citizens.
The Trump administration announced on September 5 that DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), which protects nearly 800,000 individuals, would be rescinded despite its vast bipartisan support – leaving a six-month window for Congress to design a permanent solution for the program. As the conversation around immigration escalates, The Financial Clinic implores lawmakers to take into account the considerable — and often detrimental — financial barriers immigrant families face on their path to citizenship, and the vast benefits to the overall economy that new Americans generate.
The 2012 introduction of DACA gave children of immigrants who have spent the majority of their lives here in America the opportunity to achieve social and financial security in this country, through strictly defined requirements for eligibility and a $495 processing fee, to be paid every two years upon renewal. Like the aforementioned barrier to citizenship, more than 43% of DACA-eligible individuals could not afford the fee and were unable to apply. However, for those participating in the program, the results are extraordinary. Despite being ineligible for federal benefits — including health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, food stamps, and federal student loans — 91% of DREAMers are employed with a 69% increase in hourly wages since receiving DACA. They are contributing so strongly to the economy that the loss of DACA workers would reduce the U.S. GDP by $433 billion over the next 10 years. For the sake of building financial security for all Americans, DACA is a program that needs to be expanded, not rescinded.
As we wait for Congress to take action, we hope to elevate the conversation on strategies that empower all Americans, documented or not, towards financial security. We need increased access to bilingual and bicultural financial coaching services that meet customers where they are to help ease their financial journeys into citizenship. Every day, we see the inspiring motivation that leads our own financial coaching customers to achieve their passionately-held financial goals, whether that’s saving for citizenship applications, building college savings for children who don’t qualify for federal aid, or building emergency savings in case there’s ever a family crisis or a threat of deportation. Join us in sharing their stories, standing with DREAMers, and finding a lasting solution for an inclusive and powerful economy.