Many immigrants view getting their papers as the golden ticket to a financially stable life. Unfortunately, it does not take much effort to unveil the fact that the documented immigrant community is dealing with significant financial hardships.
The immigrant community is about 41 million people strong in the US. That is a significant sector of consumers. Financial problems for this group mean financial problems on a larger scale.
The Same Problems as Everyone Else
It is estimated that about only 25% of adults in the US have an emergency savings fund. It is also estimated that about 7.2 million people hide credit card debt and have a secret bank account that they keep from their partner or spouse.
Credit card debt in the United States reached a record $998 billion in 2021. Whether your family has been in the US for generations or you are newly documented, you likely have some type of credit card debt you are dealing with.
The documented immigrant community faces the same problems as other Americans. Like everyone else, sometimes poor financial decisions are made, but they also must overcome other obstacles on top of poor financial decisions.
The Language Barrier
Language is often an obstacle in the documented immigrant community, especially when it comes to understanding financing terms. If you are a member of an immigrant community and do not have access to language support to fully understand what you are agreeing to, the outcome can be financially devastating.
For example, a lot of native-born Americans are aware that timeshares are not the best investment. A resale of a timeshare is typically significantly undervalued and often resells at only 50% of the purchase price. However, a language barrier, or more rightfully, an interpretation barrier, of the marketing language used to sell timeshares can make them seem like you are buying into the property.
Many newly documented immigrants depend on friends or family to translate for them. Often, a child is tasked with making the translations. Many times a great deal of information is lost in translation about fees, interest rates, and actual payback times on loans, credit cards, and other interest-bearing instruments.
Unfortunately, there is an entire industry that is dedicated to predatory lending and exploiting the immigrant community and other marginalized communities. When you have yet to establish credit and you need appliances for your kitchen, paying up to three times the amount those appliances are valued at does not sound like a bad idea.
Documented immigrants do not like to rock the boat when it comes to these lenders taking advantage of them. The fact is when you live in a country where only 1.5% of cases involving children and women that have an evidenced-based fear of returning to their original country are won, it is easy to see why you would not want to cause any waves in your new country.
The fear of deportation remains even when you are documented. It is easier to pay the exorbitant fees, interest rates, and extended-term conditions on the financing than to risk dealing with the authorities.
Reduced Trust in Banks
In households that speak a language other than English primarily, the occupants are five times less likely to open a bank account. They pay bills using cash and money orders. Without a true paper trail of bills paid, it is nearly impossible to build credit.
Of course, without credit, you are ripe for predatory lending, and it is also harder to save. Distrust of the system promotes this behavior. Documented immigrants struggle with handing their money over to an institution that in many cases they cannot even communicate with because of language barriers.
One of the best ways to help members of an immigrant community is to advocate for them.