Guest Blog Post: Karla Guerra Co-Chair and Lead Organizer of CRC’s Here to Stay Initiative

Hardly a week goes by without a major news story related to the Federal government targeting and hurting immigrant households. In an era with heightened xenophobia and overt racism, we are observing deteriorating human rights conditions at the southern border and witnessing discriminatory policies being carried out against immigrant communities, preventing people from  accessing basic resources. 

On top of a challenging environment that prides deportation and raids over asylum and economic opportunity, we are witnessing major barriers for all immigrants in getting access to tools that will improve their state. These include access to healthcare, financial aid, and unemployment insurance. All of these issues lead to unique financial challenges, not limited to lack of access to banking and home loans, poor credit or no credit, and high fees for sending support to family members abroad. The limited availability of banking financial tools and products make undocumented people more susceptible to scams and fraud from payday lenders. This, in turn, hurts their ability to acquire and build household wealth, gain financial stability , and eventually achieve prosperity. 

As the co-chair of the California Reinvestment Coalition’s Here to Stay campaign, I believe that immigrants play a crucial role in boosting our economy,  especially through mom and pop business activity. I’ve seen these contributions first hand. Some of the most creative entrepreneurs were immigrants or sons and daughters of immigrants. In California, immigrants comprise 35 percent of the state workforce, over 33 percent of business owners, and pay over $3 billion in annual state and local taxes. Despite accounting for only about 13 percent of the U.S. population, immigrants now start more than a quarter of new businesses in this country. Therefore, there are several reasons to pay close attention to immigrant financial access;  given the major role immigrants play in this country’s economy, financial barriers are serious issues not to ignore. 

CRC’s Here to Stay Campaign is a powerful initiative, in the face of heightened anti-immigrant policies and rhetoric, in the fight for economic and social justice. Here to Stay is a California statewide policy advocacy campaign of immigrant advocates, civil rights organizations, non-profit and community advocacy groups, government representatives, and business and private-sector interests, all working collaboratively to achieve greater economic security and prosperity, social well-being, and human dignity for California’s immigrant communities and for the state as a whole. We work towards building an equitable economy by advocating for access to financial resources and economic opportunity for immigrant families in California to ensure they have the resources they need to move out of poverty.

Getting access to basic services is a burden today for immigrants. They can’t get good access to basic needs such as healthcare, employment, housing, and social services. Undocumented immigrants face additional barriers because they do not qualify for public benefits. Consequently, many become victims of predatory services, wage theft, predatory loans, exploitation at work, homelessness, and abusive practices. While immigrants make up large portions of the labor force, they are more likely to face discrimination from financial institutions. Therefore, it’s essential to advocate for equitable opportunities and resources, as presented in the CRC report “Here to Stay: Promoting Financial Security and Economic Opportunity for Immigrants in California. This includes the expansion of CalEITC to families who file with Individual Tax Identification Numbers (ITINs), along with access to safe banking, small business loans, mortgages, accessible retirement systems, decent jobs, fair wages, affordable housing, small business ownership and homeownership. 

Immigrants are an asset to California’s economy. I am honored to continue my work now as co-chair of Here to Stay with a deep passion and faith that together, we can shape a better collective future.