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Unwavering Motherhood in a Pandemic: Tammy’s Story

In the tapestry of human resilience, some stories stand out like beacons of hope and remind us of our shared struggle and humanity. At MAF, we often hear these stories when talking to clients. Tammy’s remarkable journey as an undocumented migrant from Honduras is one of these stories and a testament to the power of perseverance and the human spirit.

On the move to find a place to thrive 

Tammy’s journey has not always been an easy one. From facing the harsh realities of a difficult relationship to enduring the heartbreak of two miscarriages, she found herself at a crossroads. Fueled by the unyielding love for her children, she took a leap of faith, leaving Georgia’s shadows behind and venturing to New York.

She told us, “I felt there was no way out; we owed a lot of rent, and it was coming; I could see that I was going to lose the apartment with the two children.” Leaving Georgia turned out to be what she needed to find community and support. She began rebuilding her life in New York with the support of her mother. She also relied on her faith to bolster her through trying times and provide her with the strength and courage she needed to overcome adversity.

“But I feel that it has made me more of a warrior than I already am, it has made me a woman who makes my decisions when I have to make them.“

Even though New York came with its own set of challenges, including contracting COVID-19 in the first month and having to live in a shelter, she remained focused on her goals and never lost sight of what was important. She was able to find ways to provide for her children and was proud that they always ate three meals a day. Her love for her children was a driving force that kept her going, even when times were tough.

A bright road ahead

Tammy’s story isn’t just one of survival; it’s a testament to her transformative journey. She went from shelter living to securing her own apartment, a reflection of her strength and commitment to her children’s future.

Tammy is always looking ahead. She is working hard to finish her GED and exploring the potential opportunities the real estate industry could provide for her family. Even though her children are only eight and four years old, she thinks about them graduating in the future and starting a job, such as becoming real estate agents. She is having conversations with her children early on and teaching them the importance of hard work, dedication, and perseverance.

“To see my children, to educate them in a good way, for them to be better than me, better than me in every way. And that’s why I try to be the best so that they see that I’m making an effort, so that they make an effort in every situation so that they never let themselves fall.“

Tammy’s dreams are tangible, and her goals are firmly grounded. Completing her GED is high on her list of aspirations. She already completed courses and is waiting to hear back about a scholarship that would allow her to take the exam this year. But more than that, her dream is to instill compassion and community service in her children, echoing the invaluable lessons she has learned on her journey. She told us that no matter their obstacles, she always reminds her kids to be respectful and polite to others. She reminds us that despite the obstacles that life may throw our way, we must never lose sight of what is truly important.

With her experiences, she leaves our community with some incredible advice:

“… we should always believe in ourselves because that is the first thing we should do as a human being, always believe in ourselves.”

Tammy’s story reminds us of resilience and hope, shining light on the strength of a woman who, against all odds, embraced life’s challenges and carved her destiny. Her journey from Honduras to the United States embodies the essence of the human spirit and reminds us that, no matter the circumstances, our dreams can be realized through unyielding determination and unwavering belief in ourselves.

We’re grateful to Tammy for sharing part of her journey with us after we met her through the Immigrant Families Recovery Program (IFRP). Join us to support families like Tammy’s here.

When the Mountain Does Not Come: Eduardo’s Story

Amidst the backdrop of a pandemic that reshaped lives worldwide, Eduardo’s story emerged as one of unwavering perseverance, resourcefulness, and steadfast dedication to family.

When COVID-19 first hit, Eduardo found himself grappling with a reduced work schedule, and therefore reduced income. Like millions of others, he navigated the uncertainties with a heavy heart and determined mind. Working on the frontline in a food processing company, he not only had to worry about his own safety but also about how to make ends meet for his family.

The challenges were compounded by the distance that separated him from his loved ones. With family back in Guatemala, Eduardo had an additional responsibility – the financial support that he provided was a lifeline that stretched across borders.

Exclusion Amidst Struggle 

One of the most painful aspects of the pandemic for Eduardo was the exclusion he felt. While conversations buzzed about stimulus checks and financial relief, Eduardo and many immigrant families like his were left behind. His coworkers discussed the government relief they were receiving, the stimulus checks that would cushion their financial fall and the opportunities that came with it. But for Eduardo, these talks were a stark reminder of his exclusion from these benefits.

“When we were at lunchtime with the guys, there were talks and versions of many things, and they began to say… ‘You are going to get a check of $1,200,’ and some said: ‘no,’ ‘yes,’ and others: ‘I already got it.’ Well, they only talked about residents and citizens, and we just stared off into space.”

“Cuando la montaña no viene a Mahoma, Mahoma tiene que ir a la montaña.”

Eduardo embraced this common saying in his home country, translating as: “When the mountain does not come to Mohammed, Mohammed has to go to the mountain.” He realized that waiting for things to change wasn’t an option, especially when there were mouths to feed and children who depended on him. Eduardo took matters into his own hands. He bought haircutting tools and spread the word among his coworkers to build his clientele and income stream. It was a practical solution that not only helped him make ends meet, but also brought a sense of community amongst his colleagues and neighbors during a time of isolation.

While Eduardo’s determination sustained him, his dreams soared beyond borders. He envisioned a bigger, brighter future for his family, a reality where they could live in a spacious home with room for his daughters to play. Memories of his homeland, Guatemala, tugged at his heartstrings, but he knew that his daughters deserved the opportunities that the U.S. could offer.

Eduardo’s story is one that resonates deeply with us, echoing the struggles and aspirations of many immigrants who face exclusion while striving to build a better life for their families.

We’re grateful to Eduardo for sharing part of his journey with us after we met him through the Immigrant Families Recovery Program (IFRP). Join us to support families like Eduardo’s here.

Context is Everything

In our increasingly data-driven world, we often turn to numbers and data to understand complex issues, including the well-being of immigrant families. However, what data can’t always capture is the intricate context of people’s lives. This fall, MAF hosted the third webinar of our IFRP research series to dive deeper into the context of immigrant families’ lives, and what it means for nonprofits to show up and serve with intentionality.

“The only real difference between numbers and data is context.”

Christopher Dokko, Evaluation Manager at MAF, laid the foundation for the event by highlighting the significance of context in understanding immigrant families’ lives. Numbers can nudge us in the direction of learning about people’s experiences, but it’s not enough to get the full picture. Christopher pointed out that data collection should extend beyond what is traditionally considered to be an indicator of financial wellness. It should encompass various variables, including social conditions, identity, geography, policy landscape, and access to opportunities.

Taking it a level deeper, it’s important to understand that context and crises, like inflation or environmental disasters, don’t impact everyone equally, leading to uneven consequences. Christopher noted, “When we’re thinking about data within the context of the broader world, we’re not just thinking about what’s happening, but how it’s differentially impacting different people’s lives.” This holistic mindset allows us to gain a more comprehensive understanding of immigrant families’ lives, and how we can better meet their needs accordingly.

Graphic showing trends shaping financial security, including shifting modes of production, work and the value of money, and access to formal structures

How nonprofits show up in times of crisis

Given the ever-changing context of immigrant families’ lives, nonprofits serving those communities have a duty to listen intentionally to what families are experiencing and respond accordingly to meet their needs with dignity and respect. We were honored to be joined by three incredible nonprofit leaders doing this work across the US. In conversation with MAF’s advocacy and engagement director Joanna Cortez Hernandez, they shared their own learnings and experiences with us about how they show up for immigrant communities, and how they make it sustainable for their staff in the long run.

I think one of the most valuable things that we can offer the community is our commitment to listen, to be nimble, and to continue to create things that are actually meeting the expectations, the opportunity, the potential, and the needs.

Karla Bachmann, VP of Financial Wellness at Branches

For us, it’s really about focusing on an asset-based perspective. We know that there are lots of challenges; it’s easy to start off with all the things that, in our (Immigrants Rising) case, undocumented people cannot do. But it’s important to switch it up and say, what are the opportunities that do exist out there? Then, really focusing on those opportunities and meeting people where they’re at.

Iliana Perez, Ph.D, Executive Director at Immigrants Rising

One of the biggest things I’ve taken away is the space that we’re in. We have a kitchen, and we try to cook meals, como familia as much as we can… It gets us all in the same room to share stories, because those are the most powerful things that keep us moving and keep us doing what we do every day.

Lizette Carretero, Director of Financial Wellness at The Resurrection Project

In times of uncertainty, the context may shift, but our dedication to understanding, supporting, and celebrating immigrant families’ lives remains unwavering. We invite you to watch the recording of our most recent webinar and stay tuned for more insights as we continue this learning journey.

Starting over in a storm

Starting over is always difficult. Starting over after a ten-year marriage and with a two-year-old in the midst of a pandemic seems insurmountable. But this is where Diana starts her journey.

Diana had just begun a career in sales to be able to support herself and her daughter when the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted her progress. In the early days of the pandemic, having a new career that required in-person interaction was especially difficult. Being unable to work, combined with the fear and uncertainty of the pandemic, felt like trying to start her new life in the midst of a storm.

Finding her own way 

Faced with supporting her daughter on her own, Diana told us how she found the options for her very limiting.

In my case the job opportunities that I could aspire to, were not office jobs, they were hard jobs, restaurant jobs, cleaning jobs, those kind of jobs… So, the fact of considering eight to ten hours working at a job earning $10 (which I imagine is the average), I am talking about $80…What am I going to do with that money and I’m not going to see [my daughter] all day?

Diana decided to forgo her limited options and take on the challenge of learning sales and building her own career. She wanted to be able to provide for her daughter while also being present for her. Even though she received messages that she should do something safe, something predictable, Diana took the step to believe in herself. She shared that in the beginning, she had to overcome a lot of self-doubt, knowing that she was the only one who was there to support her daughter and to cover all the expenses for her household. But she found the confidence to move ahead and make her own way.

“When my daughter grows up, she will not complain to me, or maybe she will not even remember if I had or did not have money in the process, if I fed her, if I took her to extraordinary places. What she will complain to me is that I was not with her”.

Turbulent waters

Like many in our community, Diana was excluded from federal relief during the pandemic. Through talking with friends in her community, she found out about MAF’s programs—one of the few supports she could apply for as an immigrant.

“[MAF’s support] was the only economic support that I received in the COVID process, and it was a great blessing, maybe it was not thousands of dollars, but it was enough to give me peace in that process.”

As she was working through a difficult divorce, Diana had just lost her legal representation because she couldn’t continue paying. Her acceptance into the Immigrant Families Recovery Program came at the right time to help her hire a lawyer so she could navigate the divorce and custody process with a bit more peace of mind.

Just keep swimming

Diana’s dedication to her career as a way to provide for her daughter is evident as her eyes light up when she talks about her strategies to be successful.

“…My goal is every day to talk to everyone about my product, even if I go to take my daughter to the pediatrician. Wherever I go, I share what I do, I have my cards (I always bring them with me), and I share them with people, I go to a business and I put my cards there.”

Even though Diana was introduced to MAF through our COVID relief programs, she soon joined other MAF programs. Diana joined a Lending Circle in Houston with one of MAF’s partners. In community with other women, she participated in a Lending Circle for $200 per month and used the opportunity to raise her credit score from 400-500 up to almost 650 points.

Diana is always looking for ways to grow. She just opened her first office space to grow her sales team. She is excited to train a team in a way that helps them generate income and be successful themselves.

The next wave

We asked Diana to share her advice for others who may be facing similar difficult circumstances. Her resilience was evident as she shared what gives her the strength to keep moving ahead, even in the midst of a storm.

My advice would be to look internally within themselves, to look for help in faith, in God, no matter what religion they practice, what they believe, but to know that there is a power much greater than us, which is, in a manner of speaking, the hand that moves many things and that is much more powerful than us. Putting our trust in that power, in God, but also putting action to do the things that we have to do at the moment, not tomorrow, not what is coming in the future. I learned that doing things day by day will give you results.

Diana continues to work daily to provide for her daughter and build a better future for both of them. As she grows her business, she also shares her dreams for her family’s future. What she hopes for most is to see her daughter happy and fulfilled as she grows, and she hopes to one day be able to purchase a home to provide more space for her daughter to run and jump.

We’re grateful to Diana for sharing part of her journey with us after we met her through the Immigrant Families Recovery Program (IFRP). Learn more about the initiative here and how MAF is helping immigrant families rebuild from the pandemic.

Hitting the Road with Lending Circles

Since MAF’s inception, Lending Circles have been a foundational tool to help low-income and immigrant families build and establish credit throughout the U.S. Building on what has already been good and working in immigrant families’ lives for generations, Lending Circles takes after traditional community practices worldwide where people come together with neighbors and friends to lend money amongst themselves. MAF formalized this time-honored tradition and acts as a loan servicer to bring people together in a shared lending model while reporting people’s monthly payments so that they build credit in the process. Lending Circles is the perfect example of the magic that can happen when the community comes together to support one another.

Scaling through trust

While MAF is headquartered in San Francisco, CA, we can reach communities nationwide with Lending Circles through partnerships. We recognize that there are countless nonprofit organizations already working with their local communities who understand people’s unique needs and circumstances. Honoring these relationships, MAF partners with expert nonprofits across the country to expand our reach with Lending Circles.

Our nonprofit partners come from a wide range of backgrounds, but the common thread is their ability to leverage Lending Circles as a complementary offering to the clients they already serve. We’ve seen our partners combine Lending Circles with their existing services to help families become homeowners, pair with their financial coaching programs, help refugees integrate into the U.S. financial system, and so much more.

Lending Circles Roadshow

In 2019, MAF launched our Lending Circles Communities campaign for nonprofits interested in partnering with us to bring Lending Circles to their communities. We hit the road and toured six cities just before the pandemic set in, spreading the word about what it means to be a Lending Circles partner and meeting hundreds of incredible nonprofit leaders along the way. Through this tour, we welcomed a cohort of 7 new partners, each uniquely leveraging Lending Circles to support their clients’ financial lives.

Four years later, we’re excited to share that we’re hitting the road again in Spring 2024! We’ll be touring the U.S., hosting in-person and virtual events to rally together our next cohort of partners. As families continue rebuilding from the pandemic while navigating inflation and other financial and political challenges, access to safe and affordable credit and capital has never been more important.

Be the first to get updates on where you can join us at a roadshow event! We can’t wait to connect with nonprofits nationwide during this campaign as we expand our partnership network.


Announcing MAF Learning Hub

We are excited to announce the launch of MAF Learning Hub, our new learning management system (LMS). Individuals can get culturally relevant financial education and resources to help them build financial confidence and achieve their goals. MAF Learning Hub is a cloud-based platform that provides users with a seamless and engaging learning experience.

Expanding access to relevant financial education

We believe in a community-centered approach, focusing on the strengths of the communities we work with. From the beginning, we have been dedicated to creating pathways for community members to access timely and relevant financial education that recognizes them as experts in their own lives.

From in-person workshops to streaming live charlas financieras to our MyMAF app, MAF constantly adapts to ensure that our financial education is relevant and accessible. Now, leveraging technology, we are launching MAF Learning Hub, allowing our community to access content, resources, and engagement opportunities anytime and anywhere.

Interactive, self-paced learning

MAF Learning Hub users can start with core topics and engage in self-paced learning that covers fundamentals such as building credit. For example, a person joining a Lending Circle to establish credit for the first time may find themselves in a complex financial realm that can feel overwhelming. MAF Learning Hub eases this transition by providing participants with tools and knowledge to develop critical financial skills.

The courses in MAF Learning Hub consist of short, interactive lessons that can be completed in just a few minutes, anywhere. As clients progress through the core topics, they can boost their confidence and prepare for the next steps in their financial journey.

In-depth engagement

MAF Learning Hub offers more advanced options for individuals who are ready to go beyond the basics. Users can participate in activities, join group financial education sessions to connect with other learners, and access additional MAF programs and resources. MAF Learning Hub emphasizes the strength of the community by providing online group sessions where participants can ask questions, exchange advice, and offer support. Additionally, clients can schedule one-on-one coaching sessions with an MAF financial coach to receive personalized guidance in achieving their goals.

Growing together

In the development of MAF Learning Hub, we consider the different aspects of our client’s lives and refer to our “Ladder of Engagement.” This roadmap provides various opportunities for clients to engage with MAF. Our ladder of engagement allows us to create multiple entry points to our financial services, recognizing that each person’s financial journey is unique. It also enables us to deepen engagement by offering different options. MAF Learning Hub is a flexible addition to the ladder of engagement, catering to clients at any stage of their financial journey, whether it’s their first exposure to financial education, supplementary resources following a coaching session, or a group session they have attended with us.

MAF Learning Hub was created using a user-centered design approach focusing on the communities we serve. These communities face various challenges in their complex financial lives, such as legal status, variable income, language barriers, and limited access to financial products. When developing new content and tools, we consider all of these factors to ensure that users feel supported and welcomed.

Only the beginning

MAF Learning Hub is an ever-evolving product, and we are excited to invite you to join the platform and provide feedback to support its ongoing development. We will regularly add new content and resources to ensure that the platform remains responsive and relevant. By measuring platform usage and analyzing client activities, we will securely gather data about clients’ financial goals and outcomes, enabling us to provide even better support.

At MAF, we believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to build financial confidence. MAF Learning Hub is a step towards turning that dream into a reality.

Currently, MAF Learning Hub is available to active MAF clients. Stay tuned for expanded access in the coming months!


Finding Courage in Crisis

As the nation’s first guaranteed income program for immigrant families, MAF’s Immigrant Families Recovery Program (IFRP) has been laser-focused on holistically supporting families in their financial recovery while learning about what is good and working in their lives. It takes courage to persist in the face of exclusion and ongoing financial hardship, but we’ve been hearing incredible stories of courage and resilience during crises from clients. In particular, the importance of entrepreneurship and self-enterprise has surfaced as a key financial strategy for many immigrant families hit hardest by COVID-19.

Paving their own way

Taking IFRP one step further as a program, we embedded evaluation to research and truly understand what it will take for immigrant families to recover faster. While many families are still actively participating in the program, early trends in the data are already showing us how they weathered the pandemic with grit and determination. Shut out from government relief programs, immigrant families found many savvy ways to make ends meet, like negotiating rental payments, selling possessions, and leaning on friends and family.

Immigrants are also investing in themselves, their families, and their futures through entrepreneurship. 1 in 5 immigrant families turned to self-employment to forge their own pathways to recovery and financial stability. Of these families, entrepreneurial income made up 75% of their household incomes–a significant influx of income that helped keep many families afloat in crisis.

People behind the numbers

The trends we’re seeing tell us part of a story about how immigrant families are innovating to survive, but numbers aren’t enough to understand the full breadth of their experiences. Over the past few months, we’ve spoken directly with many immigrant families across the country to hear their stories of courage during an unprecedented crisis. In our most recent webinar, we were honored to uplift stories from Luisa and Isidora, two women who took leaps of faith during the pandemic by starting their own businesses to provide for their families.

It takes immense courage to start a business during an economic crisis, but that’s exactly what Luisa and Isidora did. When turned away from other financial relief, these women took a leap of faith to support themselves and their families during incredibly uncertain times. While caring for her children during COVID, Luisa turned trash into treasure by collecting recycling from her neighbors for extra income. From selling fruits to flowers, Isidora embraced multiple avenues of entrepreneurship to fight for her family’s well-being. Both faced many barriers in their business journeys, but persisted nonetheless.

Immeasurable Love

A common theme we hear from many clients, including Luisa and Isidora, is how love and family is the motivator to push through the hardest days. Efrain Segundo Orozco, MAF’s Financial Education & Engagement Manager, summarized it perfectly during the webinar:

“Something that isn’t data-driven, something that we can’t measure, is the amount of love that drove these mothers to do what they did. The love that they have for their families was the spark that lit the fire that propelled them to do what they did, and that’s gonna continue to propel them to do what they’re gonna have to do. And that same fire is in a little spark that you could just find within them. It’s the same fire. It’s like sharing a candle that you could find across communities nationwide.”

While these sparks of love that keep people going are admirable, we must also acknowledge that it doesn’t mean the tough times are easy. Luisa shared with us that while starting her recycling business was great for her family financially, it also greatly improved her mental health in a difficult period of isolation due to COVID-19 and economic stress. In the words of Mariel Hernández, MAF’s Program Communications Specialist:

“People are strong and resilient, but being tough is tough. It takes a toll on people. But if we can find these moments of self-empowerment, then maybe it makes the tough journey a little bit easier.”

Our work continues

Every day, we’re learning more from the immigrant families we serve about what it will take to help them rebuild from COVID-19. It’s a long road ahead, but we’re in it for the long haul as we make strides towards a world that is equitable and just for the families we serve. We invite you to watch the recording of our most recent webinar, Finding Courage in Crisis, to get the full scoop on MAF’s emerging research and hear Luisa and Isidora’s full stories.

If you missed part one of our webinar series, check out the blog and event recording here to learn more about our IFRP research design.

MAF was a Gamble from Day One.

We started our work 15 years ago in a small office on the second floor of a local cafe in San Francisco’s Mission District. Our vision then – as it is today – was to help improve the financial lives of people pushed aside and left behind without access to the most basic of financial tools like checking accounts or credit scores. Without such tools, how can we expect people to materially improve their financial lives? 

Since then, MAF has put the best of technology and finance to serve our clients, allowing us to scale our work nationally. Now, low income immigrant families all across the country are accessing MAF’s programs to help put food on the table, pay rent, launch their small business, and even to apply for citizenship or gain protective status to allow them to work and live without fear of deportation. We have delivered more than 92,000 grants and loans to immigrants, people of color, and low-income families to improve their financial lives with higher credit scores, bigger savings, and smaller debts. 

MAF’s financial services work because they are rooted in the lives of the people we serve. While we have much to celebrate – and we did just that this past October to mark MAF’s Quinceñera – there is still more work to be done. 

In 2023, we are diving deeper in our research of the 5,000 participants in the largest guaranteed income program for immigrant families. We are expanding small business loans to help clients access credit to recover faster. And we’re improving our tech infrastructure to build and scale our work even further. 

MAF is dramatically different than when we first started our work in the Mission. What has not changed is our community-centered approach to financial security and social change. Our clients are at the center of all that we do. They inform and inspire how we show up to build a better future together. For our true power is always in each other. 

Read our 2022 Annual Report to learn more about MAF and the work to come.

A Home for the Generations: Eva’s Story

There’s a lot that Eva loves about being a new homeowner. 

She loves having a house in a neighborhood she’s been renting in for years. She loves living close to her family, as a sister, mother, and grandmother of two. And she loves that she can actually enjoy her house without a time-consuming commute. 

“There’s a lot of fog, but I love San Francisco,” Eva, a longtime MAF client, says. “One of my dreams always was that I want to live where I work.”

But this dream wasn’t an easy-to-achieve reality. Eva has done a lot in her life: She immigrated to the United States from El Salvador when she was 15, started her own nutrition business on top of her full-time job in social services, sent her three children to college, and endured a financially challenging divorce — one that almost stopped her dreams of buying a home.

“Coming from two incomes to one — I was left with debt,” Eva says. “I never thought that I was going to be given the opportunity back to be a homeowner.”

Eva thought of ways to support her family, including her children and grandmother. She became invested in nutrition to protect her own health, barely taking any sick days to preserve her income. “I couldn’t imagine myself getting sick during the time I needed to stay strong,” Eva says. 

Income was one thing, but building credit posed another challenge. Because of the debt from the divorce, Eva knew she had to strengthen her credit score to give herself — and her family — the best possible chance at homeownership.

Joining MAF was a game-changer for Eva’s finances.

Years ago, Eva and her cousin passed by MAF’s office on Mission Street on their way to work. “We like to try everything,” Eva says, so they decided to join an informational meeting.

The energy immediately moved her. She started participating in MAF’s Lending Circles program, which provides interest-free credit-building loans via community support. This formalizes a global tradition of community lending, sometimes known as tandas and susus.

“The people that join [MAF] are from the community. These are working families looking for a resource like me,” Eva says. “Meeting these people and hearing their stories — it was a gathering, it was sharing. There was always food and trying to have that environment of safety and community.”

Over the years, Eva participated in MAF’s financial services for small business owners, services that were tangibly different from the classes she took in college. “They’re basically designed for Latinos, like me, to try to serve our community,” Eva says.

“It’s not just the Latino community,” she adds. “It’s different immigrant communities where the environment becomes more like family and friends, always sharing very personal — sometimes intimate, difficult — growing experiences.”

The community at MAF created treasured friendships and relationships. All the while, Lending Circles were opening a door that Eva once thought was closed to her.

“I saw the changes in my credit score,” Eva says. “It was a dream come true.” 

The changes came at exactly the right hour. In the summer of 2022, Eva and her family were hustling to buy a house with their combined income. All the cards were falling into place, but Eva just needed one more boost to her credit score to get a loan approved.

At the time, Eva was participating in a Lending Circle, so she asked Doris, MAF’s Senior Client Success Manager, if there was anything that could be done. 

“One more payment,” Eva was told. “One more payment, and it’s going to make a difference.”  

The Lending Circles program boosts credit scores by reporting loan payments to all three major credit bureaus. MAF quickly accelerated Eva’s loan payment timeline so her final payment was processed before the closing date. 

The whole journey reminded Eva of why she joined MAF in the first place.

“It’s a sense of community, friends, and family, ‘we’re here for you,’” Eva says. “The goal is not just getting participants. The goal is helping the participants make their dreams come true.”

The best part about Eva’s new home? It’s not just for her.

“You’re taking care of your own house for future generations,” Eva says. She hopes that her kids will want to keep and live in the house for a long time. 

After all, there’s a lot of value in that home, and not just financially. Family and community motivated and anchored Eva through all those years in her profession, in her personal life, and in her work with MAF. 

This house is a symbol of that relationship — and a way for Eva to continue that tradition for years to come. “It’s a team effort,” Eva says.

‘A Blessing…A Thorn’: 10 Years of DACA

When Shanique’s mother passed away in 2015, she couldn’t leave the United States for her funeral. Shanique immigrated from The Bahamas when she was 15, and ever since then, she has been “stuck” in the U.S. because of her DACAmented status.

“Although DACA has been a blessing, it has also been a bit of a thorn, I would say, in my flesh,” says Shanique, a MAF DACA fee assistance recipient. If Shanique had left the country to say goodbye to her mother, she would not have been allowed to return home to the United States.

This double-edged sword isn’t uncommon for hundreds of thousands of immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. Since its inception in 2012, DACA has been a transformative program. It’s allowed Shanique and so many others to receive driver’s licenses, social security cards, and work permits. “If it was not for DACA, I would not have the job I have today,” says Shanique, who works as a hospital clerk.

DACA provided a kind of life-changing safety and security, according to Miguel, a fellow MAF DACA fee assistance recipient. “DACA was able to give me the ability to follow my dreams, to follow my career path, to not be afraid of being deported,” he says. The program gave him the means to pursue a career of advocacy, to fight for others like himself in his role as a nonprofit director. 

“Prior to DACA, we always had to be in the shadows and we had to be afraid,” Miguel says. “And that’s no longer the case.”

But DACA was never meant to serve as a long-lasting solution for the thousands of undocumented immigrants in the country. When DACA was first announced in 2012, former president Obama called it a “temporary stopgap measure.” “This is not amnesty, this is not immunity. This is not a path to citizenship. It’s not a permanent fix,” he said. 

In the decade since, DACA recipients have faced multiple hurdles — a federal judge challenging the program’s legitimacy, a months-long USCIS backlog jeopardizing renewals, and the $495 application fee, which remains one of the largest barriers to entry for low-income DACA applicants. And as DACA hits its 10-year-anniversary, DACA is closed to new applicants because of legal challenges. Even immigrants who can apply for renewals are still barred from various rights, like voting or being able to travel internationally. 

“We’re constantly reminded of our status,” Shanique says. “Something as simple as seeing the word ‘temporary’ on your driver’s license is a little bit of a sting to the heart.”

That’s why a path to citizenship is so crucial — not just for the approximately 800,000 DACA recipients, but for all 11.4 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.

“Actually creating a pathway to citizenship for the millions of people who are in the United States, who are contributing to this country, who are making this country better, would change the lives of people tenfold,” Miguel says. “Just look at someone like myself.” 

Miguel recently became a permanent resident — a status change that isn’t an option for most DACA recipients. Becoming a permanent resident has allowed him not just to pursue his passions “unrestricted,” but to see his family in Mexico, whom he had been separated from for 32 years. “I moved here at the age of two. And because of my new status change, I went back to Mexico and met my family for the first time.”

Thirty-two years is an unconscionable amount of time to be separated from family. But a pathway to citizenship can reunite families and allow undocumented immigrants the right to vote, see loved ones, and live a private life of freedom. After a decade of DACA, a pathway to citizenship is long overdue.

“I feel like I’ve lived here long enough. This is the only home I know,” Shanique says. “I don’t even remember much of my life in The Bahamas. America has been my home.”

MAF stands in solidarity with DACA recipients, providing fee assistance so that the filing fee isn’t a barrier for those looking to apply for DACA. Since the DACA program began, MAF has provided loans and matching grants to people in 47 states and the District of Columbia. More than 11,000 DACA recipients have accessed MAF’s DACA fee assistance, including Miguel and Shanique. 

If you’re eligible to apply for a DACA renewal, MAF offers fee assistance. Learn more and apply today!