CHC Lays Out Guiding Principles on Immigration We Should All Live By

By Janet Murguía, President and CEO, NCLR

This week, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) held a press conference to announce a set of principles to guide the upcoming push for comprehensive immigration reform.  The principles are thoughtful, fair, humane and pragmatic.  They also reflect the unity of the Latino community—regardless of subgroup, geography, or party affiliation—on the issues surrounding immigration.

Our community wants to see permanent relief for DREAMers, a path to legality and citizenship for the nation’s 11 million undocumented workers, and the preservation of family unity at the core of our immigration policy.  We realize that these measures, together with smart and humane enforcement, are integral to restoring law and order to our country’s immigration system.  Without such steps, our country cannot successfully attract and integrate hardworking immigrants from all over the world to maintain an innovative and competitive economy.

While it is true that immigration is not the top issue that our community faces, it is also true that the positions candidates have on immigration were the key motivating factor in getting a record numbers of Hispanics to vote on Election Day.  Thus, we believe it would be a very wise move for everyone who is interested in moving forward on this issue with the Latino community to give as much attention as possible to what the CHC is saying.  We must swiftly work together to deliver the solutions our country has been waiting for.

Congressional Hispanic Caucus, “ONE NATION: Principles on Immigration Reform and Our Commitment to the American Dream”

Changes to CFPB Guidelines on Remittances Keep Responsible Providers in the Game

By Janis Bowdler, Director, Wealth-Building Policy Project, NCLR

One of the first moves by the newly minted Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was to issue a rule implementing new protections for money sent to loved ones abroad, known as remittances.  Americans wire billions of dollars annually.  Much of this business is done by immigrants, who are prey for hidden fees that drain hard-earned cash from those who can afford it least.  Consequently, one goal of the new rule is to spur new technology and infrastructure that will make remittances safer and cheaper to send.  Change is never easy, so I was not surprised when the new rule was met with deep opposition by some industry players.  Still, no one wants to see promising and responsible providers leave the market.

As we approach the deadline for implementation (currently set for February 2013), it has become clear that modest refinements could make it easier for responsible companies to comply with the rule and compete in the market without sacrificing critical protections for the consumer.  CFPB announced yesterday that it will issue draft adjustments for public comment next month.  Richard Cordray, Director of the CFPB, deserves credit for standing firm on safeguarding remittances while also ensuring a workable and responsible marketplace.

Before this provision became law in the Dodd-Frank Act, it was nearly impossible to compare costs between remittance providers.  The new law requires providers to disclose the exchange rate, fees, and the amount of funds that recipients can expect in their home currencies.  It’s this last figure that is the critical innovation.  Let me give you an example:  If you attempt to send $100 to Mexico, one provider may state that your family will receive $1,200 pesos while another may state that your family will receive $1,100 pesos.  For once, your choice has become obvious.  It may be difficult to evaluate the tradeoffs between fees and exchange rates, but knowing the final amount that your loved ones will receive allows for classic comparison shopping.

Other anticipated adjustments include:

  • Financial institutions, or senders, will not be held liable if a consumer provides a wrong account number.  Senders can only match numbers, not names, and therefore have no way to verify the identity of receivers.  They will still have to demonstrate that it is consumer error and will retain responsibility for investigating and recovering funds.
  • Senders will be responsible for published fees, and when such fees are unknowable, they will have to overestimate so that the consumer has the advantage.
  • Senders will have to account for the country federal tax, but not city or county taxes.  There are very few local taxes, and those that exist are extremely modest.

NCLR firmly stands behind the CFPB’s original proposed regulations as well as recent amendments that will encourage greater openness and accountability in the remittance market.  These rules will ensure that banks and other senders can continue to offer this very important product to Latinos.

The Language Question: Bilingual or Not, No One Is a Fake

By Ricky Garza, Communications Department, NCLR

As America’s Latino population grows and diversifies, the question of what unites us becomes more difficult to answer.  For the immigrants and their descendants who hail from Latin America’s 19 Spanish-speaking countries, diverse histories, cultures, cuisines, and national identities all threaten to divide us as a community.  Fortunately, the use of a common language seems the great equalizer, something that all Latinos can unite behind.

But what about Latinos who don’t speak Spanish?

Because a majority of all Hispanics are born in the United States, millions of young Latinos grow up as third- or fourth-generation citizens, owing their roots to a migration from perhaps over a century ago.  Yet they are categorized alongside more recent Spanish-speaking Latinos by either their looks or their last name.  These young people are clearly Latino, but an acute sense of shame and belittlement can come with not knowing Spanish, both from within and from outside the community.

The label of “Hispanic” is often considered as an ethnicity rather than a race, including by the U.S. Census (although this too is subject to change), making it difficult to argue that a permanent and singular Latino identity exists.  As has been seen throughout U.S. history, ethnic identities can quickly be assimilated into the identities of other races.  A mixture of culture, darker skin, and the Spanish language seems to barely hold us together as a group.  For a light-skinned, fourth-generation Mexican American growing up in a monolingual home, a connection to Hispanic identity may seem out of reach.

But is shaming the monolingual members of our community a productive task?  A quick glance at the comments section of the Huffington Post’s coverage of this language issue shows a flood of frustration with “fake Latinos” who are bitterly “refusing to learn” Spanish. Continue reading

Congress. Listen to Latinos: Raise Revenue and Reject Cuts to the Poor

By Janis Bowdler, Director, Wealth-Building Policy Project, NCLR

The 2012 presidential election debate centered on how best to jumpstart our economy and spur job creation.  The candidates campaigned on their opposing plans, drawing stark contrasts on fundamental economic issues such as taxes, health care, and the national debt.  Hispanic voters went to the polls in record numbers and with a clear message:  Grow the economy in a way that we all prosper.  In fact, more than half of Hispanic voters said the economy weighed heaviest on their mind as they cast their vote for President.

So we’re pleased to see the President kick off the debate on the so-called fiscal cliff by standing by his campaign pledge to reduce the deficit in a balanced way, including asking the wealthy to pay a little more so we can invest in the next generation.  In an election eve poll Hispanic voters expressed their overwhelming support for this approach.  When asked how we should go about reducing the deficit, 35 percent support raising taxes on the wealthy and 42 percent support a combination of revenue generation and spending cuts—and not on the backs of the poor.  Notably support remains high for revenue plus cuts across party lines.

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Source: ImpreMedia/Latino Decisions 2012 Latino Election Eve Poll

Latinos have a lot at stake in how Congress opts to fix our budget woes.  Our community stands to be among the most affected by cuts to safety net programs and investments that would grow the economy, such as education and job training.  By 2020, three out of four workers joining the labor force will be Hispanic.  Our economy—and our retirees—will benefit from a productive, educated workforce.  Moreover, our community is younger than others, which means it will be Latino children stuck with debt from overspending today.

As they return to work next Tuesday, Congress would do well to listen to Hispanic voters and raise revenue and reject cuts that would put millions back in poverty.