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Insight From the Field: Supporting Financial Stability for Undocumented Immigrants

By Matt Stratford, Marketing Manager, CNote
May 6, 2024

A Brookings study revealed that only “63% of immigrant household heads have a checking account.” Without access to bank accounts, these communities are forced to rely on alternative financial services, like payday lenders or check-cashers, which cost them approximately $2 billion annually.

Credit unions like Comunidad Latina FCU are stepping up to offer practical solutions tailored to empower these under-resourced communities.

Comunidad Latina’s mission is to serve its community by offering unique, empowering, and affordable financial services with compassion, care, and dignity to individuals who aren’t documented and who don’t have a social security number. Approximately 98% of Comunidad Latina’s members are undocumented; however, not all the credit union’s members identify as Latino.

Despite Comunidad Latina’s small team and limited resources, the credit union is able to offer high-impact products to its members. That these products resonate deeply with the community is evident in their membership growth of over 10% since 2022.

Shared Secured Loans Program

Comunidad Latina’s Share Secured Loans Program allows individual members to save and lend money to pay off a loan before they receive it. The reverse loan allows members to not have to worry about coming into the credit union with a deposit to use as collateral for a loan.

Additionally, because these loans have an interest rate of 3.5% (compared to between 12% and 20% at big banks), this product also creates opportunities for members to build their credit as they plan for big expenses.

“We created these loans because that’s what our members understand,” said Azul Sanchez, CEO of Comunidad Latina FCU. “Being able to understand our members and to provide guidance while allowing them to preserve their dignity is very important to building trust with them.”


When asked about her vision for Comunidad Latina’s future, Azul shared that one of her most important goals for the credit union was to continue to grow and build trust within Comunidad Latina’s community through new and existing partnerships with other organizations.

These relationships have allowed Azul to build upon Comunidad Latina’s curated database of community resources that range from English courses and citizenship classes to medical services and college enrollment assistance.

Another important partnership has been with CNote, a women-led technology platform that brings credit unions no-fee deposits from a network of committed impact investors.

“I want to express my heartfelt gratitude for the support provided by CNote to our credit union,” said Azul. “These deposits enable us to have the liquidity necessary to continue lending to our members. CNote’s commitment to our success has been inspiring for our team and we are truly honored to be their partner.”

Financial Education and Wellness

Comunidad Latina is frequently invited to lead financial literacy classes and workshops for youth and adults in Santa Ana, many of whom have never had a bank account. During their six-week classes, Azul and her team strive to empower participants with skills, knowledge, and awareness about their financial goals and wellness so that they can achieve financial stability.

The classes cover topics like credit, savings, and budgeting, but Comunidad Latina also encourages participants to think about how their values align with their financial decisions.

A large component of these classes involves participant-learning circles, which provide individuals with a safe space to ask questions and obtain guidance on how to overcome financial challenges. Each participant is also paired with a mentor, who supports them throughout the entire six weeks.

According to Azul, the reason Comunidad Latina leads these financial literacy classes isn’t to boost membership. “We do these classes wanting people to have financial stability and the financial freedom that they need and want,” she said. “If that means they’re going to open a membership at the credit union up the street or at a bank, that’s okay. I just want community members to be equipped with the tools that they need to be able to be successful.”

Connect with CNote to learn more.

About CNote

CNote is a technology platform that provides a sustainable flow of non-member deposits that are low-cost and deliver consistent value. This service is available at no cost to CUNA member credit unions as arranged by CUNA Strategic Services.