Immigrants’ ‘Fair Exchange’ With Banks Falls Short

By Megan Izen Jan 09, 2008

With the primary presidential elections taking the top political news seat, immigration reform has been temporarily put on the back burner. But that doesn’t mean groups aren’t still fighting for the rights of millions of immigrants in the US. A Washington-based advocacy and research group, Appleseed, released a guide for banks to set up equitable remittance systems they have branded "Fair Exchange," playing off the increasingly popular term "Fair Trade." Undocumented immigrants have habitually been targeted by predatory financial institutions for sending remittances and cashing paychecks without a bank account. They pay fees upwards of 5-12% on remittances and around 400-800% on payday loans/advances. Francis Calpotura, director of the Transnational Institute for Grassroots Research and Action (TIGRA) says this is part of a decades long trend of an overall divestment from communities of color. In the past 30 years, while banks have shut down shop in neighborhoods of color, payday loan and remittance institutions keep popping up. The Appleseed guide is trying to address these injustices on the premise that banks will voluntarily comply with these standards. It’s a great idea, but like most things with good intentions it will fall short. Calpotura says, "Unless there are mechanisms to make sure people get treated with dignity and respect, [the guide] has to be complemented by grassroots advocacy. Banks alone will not change their practices."