I’ll admit that I had no idea that, until recently, an illegal immigrant could get a taxpayer identification number (but not a social security number), pay taxes, open accounts, and even get a mortgage. And as it turned out, these mortgages performed quite well in financial terms, thanks to conservative lending criteria, fixed rates, and no doubt highly motivated homeowners. Whatever your personal and political feelings on illegal immigration, you have to admit this is an example of financial institutions thinking outside the box.
However, this curious confluence of conflicting policies has come to an end — illegal immigrants can no longer own property in the United States. Which is at least consistent. But also a little sad.
It seems to me that hard working and talented illegal immigrants would make excellent Americans. So why doesn’t each one just become a citizen? As it turns out, there’s virtually no way for him to do that, and if there is, it takes many years. And lots and lots of paperwork.
Which made me wonder:
- Perhaps native Americans could have had better luck turning away the Pilgrims with a barrage of forms instead of arrows and clubs. I can almost envision those settlers pulling out their quills and inkpots, setting to work filling out Forms A-J and Schedule 23-B right there on Plymouth Rock.
- I also wondered what sort of paperwork my German and English forebears had to wade through when they arrived in the 1800s. Did they need to bring two forms of daguerreotype identification?
Anyway, by now you’re probably wondering — what does this have to do with credit union marketing?
I think there is a link between immigration issues and credit unions. There’s more than a germ of similarity between the credit union mission and the dreams of people who want to live and work in the United States. Credit unions also have a history and a duty to serve the underserved. In fact, many of the earliest credit unions were founded to serve groups of recent immigrants.
Any way you slice it, the current legal immigration system simply doesn’t work. Even if you’re a hard core xenophobe, you have to admit that it’s silly to stifle virtually all legal avenues to immigration and citizenship through masses of paperwork and years of waiting.
What can credit unions do? I honestly don’t know. But I think it’s worth talking about. Credit unions have a history of “sticking up for the little guy”, of finding ways to provide economic opportunity, of helping people help themselves.