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A dream no longer deferred

Edgar did something a few weeks ago that he had been dreaming of for the past two years. On a sunny day in San Francisco’s Mission District, Edgar walked into the Social Security Administration Office and began to fill out an application. You may remember Edgar and his partner Gustavo from when they were first profiled in the Bay Area Reporter. Mission Asset Fund and The Bay Area Reporter have been closely following Edgar and Gustavo’s two year journey.

Edgar and Gustavo had been chasing the American dream for most of their lives. A dream, that until recently, they thought could never come true. As children, they immigrated with their parents to the United States seeking opportunities and a better life. When they arrived they joined 11 million other undocumented immigrants living in the United States trying to get by.

Edgar and Gustavo at the Mission Asset Fund Office (Photo: Rick Gerharter)

Chasing the American Dream

Two years ago, Edgar never thought he would one day be on track to realize his American Dream. Gustavo and Edgar’s lives had been severely limited by their undocumented status.  Edgar’s childhood dream of being a teacher had been put on indefinite hold after high school. He had been accepted to U.C. Berkeley, but was unable to enroll because undocumented students cannot access conventional loans or federal financial student aid.

Once joining the working world, Edgar was an exemplary employee, earning the respect of his coworkers and was recognized by his supervisors for his strong work ethic. All of this fell apart when he was offered a promotion. Edgar was unable to produce the documentation that the company requested and he was forced to leave

Gustavo was also unable to attend college and could only secure work after high school cleaning people’s houses, laboring for long hours and little pay.

Another challenge Edgar faced as an undocumented immigrant was being separated from his two young children. Without documentation, neither Gustavo nor Edgar can get on a plane to bring them home to San Francisco. Gustavo has only been able to talk with his children periodically on the phone. Gustavo and Edgar wait for the day that they would be reunited with the children to make their family whole.

A New Opportunity

In early 2012, Edgar and Gustavo’s lives would change forever when the Obama Administration announced a new program that would offer protection from deportation and permission to work for some undocumented youth living in the United States who had arrived before they turned 16 who had not yet turned 31.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), was the opportunity they had been waiting for. Like many of the other undocumented people living in the United States Edgar and Gustavo were living unbanked and under constant financial hardship. They lived from paycheck to paycheck, and the four hundred and sixty five dollar application fee was seemingly out of reach. Edgar and Gustavo were determined to find a way to cover the costs.

Joining a Circle

Through friends and the SF LGBT Center, Edgar and Gustavo learned about the Mission Asset Fund’s Lending Circle for Dreamers program. Lending Circles for Dreamers program provides zero-interest loans that allowed Edgar and Gustavo, and many other like them, access the four hundred and sixty five dollars they needed to cover the application fees. Over the course of the ten month program, participants take online financial training classes and build credit as they repay the loan. When participants are ready to apply for DACA, Mission Asset Fund gives them a check made out to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The two year journey to the Social Security Office for Edgar and Gustavo was filled with mountains of paperwork and miles of red tape. A now resolved paperwork issue forced Gustavo’s application to be put on hold for weeks, while a filing error forced Edgar to restart his application. Through it all, Gustavo and Edgar have always had each other for support. Now they have documentation, community, and credit history.

With their new ability to access the financial mainstream, they are one step closer to achieving their goals. The Lending Circle for Dreamers program and DACA have opened up the possibilities for Edgar and Gustavo. Edgar will now be able to go back to school, unite his family, and find stable work. As the ink dries on his Social Security application, Edgar’s dream is finally becoming reality.