Will Predatory Lenders Get Fat on Immigration Reform?

July 13, 2013
Washington Monthly 

Immigration reform could possibly include requirements that undocumented residents obtain legal status by paying penalties and back taxes, driving them to seek the services of unscrupulous legal advisers and predatory financial-service providers. The Senate’s Gang of Eight proposal, for example, would require $2,000 in fees and penalties as well as back taxes for every previous year of employment. This could make immigrants vulnerable to predatory lenders willing to loan them the necessary cash at exorbitant interest rates, warns Anne Kim, a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. She writes that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has reported that more than half of foreign-born citizens and Hispanics either have no bank account or use “alternative” financial-service providers such as check cashers. Valeria Treves, executive director of the advocacy group NICE, says that some tax preparers this year urged immigrants to file back taxes for the previous 10 years, charging up to $250 per return, or even selling a special but nonexistent tax form and charging for an Individual Tax Identification Number, which is simple and free to obtain via the Internal Revenue Service's website. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is already cracking down on predatory lending in general, could be well situated to prevent financial services fraud and predatory practices that heat up due to immigration reform, Kim concludes.
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