Home Loans for Illegal Immigrants
November 19, 2005 -- For many, it's the American dream: owning a home. With the recent spike in housing costs, it's become more difficult for many Valley families to qualify for a home loan. But some local banks are giving out loans, and they don't even require a social security number.
David seems like your typical first-time homeowner. The house is small, money's tight. But his family is happy. "It was our dream." he said. "So it was like our dream became true, finally."
But getting a loan from the bank almost didn't happen. An employee from the bank called and said it seemed they had a problem.
The problem was David's social security number ... it's a fake.
He is undocumented, an illegal immigrant. David thought it was a dead end, but not in California. It's among a few states where banks are offering mortgages to people who they know are illegal.
"He gave us good news, saying, 'oh, you have good credit, you've been good on your payments. Sure, we can help you out!,'" he recalls.
David got a 30-year, $135,000 loan. He pays $950 a month for his house in the South Valley.
The Valley non-profit group Acorn is helping people like David. They set him up with Citibank in Fresno, where a social security number is not required.
Instead, it asks for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, or I-TIN. It proves they pay taxes to the IRS. Applicants also have to have a bank account, proof of US residency for two years, and two years of credit references.
"The banks wanna get bigger, wanna give mortgages to people and they see this is a tremendous money making opportunity," says Diana Hull, an illegal immigrant opponent.
Hull is the president of a group called Californians For Population Stabilization, based in Santa Barbara. Hull says the exact numbers are tough to gauge, but one estimate identifies 250,000 undocumented immigrants in the US who make enough money to be eligible for a home loan.
That equals $60 billion in potential mortgages.
But Hull says the big business is not just a bad idea ... she insists it's also against the law. "There is a law against aiding and abetting illegal aliens to continue to live in the United States. Issuing a mortgage to an illegal alien is helping him establish himself and remain the United States, which is clearly illegal. It's a felony," she says.
Hall says the problem goes all the way to the top, and she pins much of the blame on the largest of government institutions, like the FDIC, the IRS and the Social Security Administration.
For David, the immigration debate is not nearly so complicated. He came to California at the age of 13 on a passport, but he never went back to Mexico. Instead, he went to high school, learned English, and eventually got a job as an electrician.
David says he still thinks about the possibility of getting caught and being deported, but he says it's all worth the risk.
When asked how he feels when he hears a lot of people wish he were never able to do this, he says, "I work hard like any other citizen and I try to live just like a normal citizen. And I have everything, I think I still have my rights."
And he says that includes the right to own a piece of the American dream.
Despite the accusations that what they're doing is illegal, Citigroup and Acorn stand by the program.
Acorn issued a statement saying everything about their program is legal. They say in the United States, it is perfectly legal for non-citizens to own property.
When asked about its opinion on whether the program is indeed legal, or unlawfully entices illegal immigrants to stay, the U.S. Attorney's office refused an answer.
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