Why Investing in Immigrants is One of the Smartest Things You’ll Do This Year

Some CEOs solve problems in boardrooms. Elyse Cherry takes walks.

It was on one of those walks in 2016 that the BlueHub Capital chief executive hatched a plan to solve one of the biggest problems immigrants face. She’d been following the immigration debate during the presidential campaign and noticed that one important issue kept getting overlooked: How immigrants would find the money to pay the application fees to become U.S. citizens.

Elyse Cherry, CEO BlueHub Capital

By the end of the walk, Cherry had developed the seeds to an idea that would “reduce financial barriers for future Americans.” By 2021, she’d launched One Percent for America (OPA).

What is One Percent for America?

One Percent for America (OPA) is an innovative way to put immigrants on a better path to citizenship. 

Backed by BlueHub Capital, a $2.2 billion, self-sustaining, national community development financial institution (CDFI) that’s been investing in low-income communities for more than 35 years, OPA lowers financial barriers to citizenship. 

How does it work?

OPA provides immigration loans for citizenship application fees at a 1% interest rate with no late fees or other charges, plus free financial education and community support. 

OPA is different from other philanthropic efforts. The organization uses investments from donors and lenders to fund the 1% interest loans to immigrants. But as borrowers pay back their loans, OPA reuses the funds to support more borrowers. 

“The goal is to recycle the funds,” said Cherry. “If I'm an immigrant and I borrow $1,000, when I pay it back that money goes to cover fees for the next immigrant.”

How does supporting immigrants on their citizenship journey help our country? 

Immigrants have always been part of the fabric of America. They’ve helped fuel our economy. Build our cities. Populate the front lines of industry. Develop new technologies. Launch small businesses. Shape our cultural perspective. Expand our taste buds. 

They are famous — Chimamanda Adichie, Wyclef Jean, Sergey Brin, Jose Canseco, Albert Einstein, Gloria Estefan, Arianna Huffington, — and they are regular everyday Americans. They are our great-grandparents. Our grandparents. Our parents. They are us.

Immigrants will play an enormous role in solving the world’s most daunting challenges — climate change, pandemics and the future of our democracy among them (not to mention doing the hardest work—taking care of us when we are sick or elderly, keeping our stores full and fields harvested.). When you help an immigrant become a U.S. citizen, you’re contributing to more than one person or even a group of people. You’re promoting economic, social and racial equity. You’re impacting workforce development. And you’re backing a stronger democracy.

As Senator Amy Klobuchar put it so eloquently at the last Democratic debate of 2019, “Immigrants don’t diminish America. They are America.”

What are the financial barriers immigrants face? 

Over 9 million immigrants living in the U.S. are eligible to become citizens, yet 90% never apply, often because they can’t pay the USCIS application fees. The naturalization process isn’t funded through tax dollars but through fees immigrants pay on their own. While philanthropy helps, it’s simply not enough to meet the demand. 

Determined to become U.S. citizens but lacking the funds to apply (roughly $1,000 in fees), immigrants often turn to high-interest credit cards or quick payday loans at inflated rates. Or they work toward saving the funds — and risk missing their window of opportunity as immigration policies change.

“At about $1,000 for each of those 9 million people, you're talking $9 billion in fees,” said Cherry. “Philanthropic support is a great help, but philanthropy alone cannot meet the size of the challenge.”

How can you support immigrants on their journey to citizenship?

Give or lend to One Percent for America.  You can make a large investment or contribution, or you can lend or donate in amounts as low as $25. In either case, you get to put your money where your values are in a funding model that uses each dollar over and over again. 

Elyse Cherry finished her walk on that life-changing day five years ago by developing an innovative approach to addressing a critical issue for immigrants across America. Now you can be part of making that solution a reality. 

If you share our belief that a better path to citizenship for immigrants is a better path for America, lend or donate to One Percent for America today.

*NOTE: In August 2020, the Pew Research Center published a report projecting

immigrants to drive the nation’s job growth through 2035. As Baby Boomers retire, immigrant families will add an estimated 18 million people to the U.S. workforce.


Helpful Resources

Invest in All of Us

Your financial support will help make citizenship more affordable for millions of future Americans.

Invest Today