By Andy Posner, founder and CEO, Capital Good Fund
Immigration is about families. Many Georgia families are seeking to improve their immigration status but face a barrier: paying for necessary legal and filing costs. Many have stories similar to newlywed Sonya of Macon, Georgia, who is trying to secure a green card for her husband Douglas so he can move to the United States from Nigeria. “An immigration attorney costs thousands of dollars, which is a lot of money to come up with,” she said.
Sonya is taking advantage of a new option for families like hers. Last summer, my nonprofit community development financial institution (CDFI) lender, Capital Good Fund, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), launched a program to give AILA members the benefit of offering an affordable financing option to their clients who otherwise would be unable to pay for these services. I strongly believe that immigrants shouldn’t have to choose between putting food on the table and pursuing their American Dream. We created the Immigration Loan Program to fund their efforts to apply for citizenship, a green card, or asylum; petition family members; fight a deportation order; and more. Since our first loan in April of 2009, an $875 loan to cover citizenship costs for a resident earning a low wage in Providence, Rhode Island, we’ve financed over $3.6 million worth of loans to almost 700 families.
The $3,000 immigration loan that we’re financing for Sonya will speed up her husband’s ability to live in the U.S. She says that having this financial boost will help her reunite with her husband sooner, which “means the world” as they hope to start a family together. Our goal is to act as an alternative to other risky financial aid options, like payday lenders who charge often unattainable interest fees, keeping low-wage earners in a cycle of debt.
Attorney partners help make the growth and success of community development programs like this thrive. AILA Immigration attorney Ayesha Chidolue is all too aware of the barriers for noncitizens in Georgia; she is the founder and managing attorney of Chidolue Law Firm based in Roswell. It took her younger brother 10 years to get his green card after the family returned from Nigeria, where he was born. “Watching my two siblings and I thrive while he, who came from the same household, suffered, was painful to see,” she recalled, and she said she’s grateful for being able to connect her immigration clients with financing options that won’t hurt them in the long run.
We are also incredibly grateful to the GoATL Fund, the impact-investing arm of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, which invested $500,000 to expand our lending in Georgia. I spoke with Sydney Hulebak, Impact Investment Manager for the organization, who said, “The GoATL Fund team has been tracking the great work of Capital Good Fund over the past few years, so we were excited by the opportunity to support their expansion into Georgia. Specifically, we felt as if there was a gap in the market around concessionary consumer credit as an alternative to predatory lending, which their diverse product lines, including the Immigration Loan, could help strategically fill.”
There are endless stories like Sonya’s, as underserved immigrant communities continue to face hardships in securing a future for their families in the United States. It’s now more important than ever that immigrants who need financial support have access to it, and we hope to continue to do just that in Georgia. To learn more about this resource, visit Capital Good Fund’s website.