Loans, mortgages to criminal invaders big business in Tennessee

22 11 2006

Cross Posted by Right Truth

Marleny Carranza’s cell phone plays salsa music when a call comes in, and these days it rings often.

She and her sister Sandra Carranza are doing a brisk business selling homes to Hispanic immigrants, and they don’t turn away people who may be in the country illegally.

The Carranza sisters work with Su Casa Realty, a Century 21 franchise with an office in Hickory Hill. They are among many real estate professionals and bankers nationwide willing to sell houses to illegal immigrants.

Giving home loans to illegal immigrants is a relatively safe bet because they usually earn steady incomes and because the federal government isn’t trying hard to make them leave, some businesses executives say.

In fact, one group that criticizes the practice says the federal government makes it easy for illegal immigrants to establish a permanent home here.

Meanwhile, federal regulators permit the sale of homes to people here illegally and encourage banks to reach out to all immigrants.

Immigration enforcement has traditionally been light in non-border areas, and some business leaders believe illegal immigrants’ integration in the national economy means the government won’t drive them out.

“I don’t think it’s physically possible or fiscally possible to deport 12 million folks,” said Bob Byrd, chairman and CEO of the Bank of Bartlett. About 18 months ago, the community bank started a mortgage program for people without Social Security numbers.

While some people without Social Security numbers are here legally, many who don’t have the numbers are illegal immigrants.

“We’re doing this because we think it’s right,” Byrd said. “We’re doing this because it’s legal. And we’re doing this because it’s profitable.”

Illegal immigrants represent a growing market: There are an estimated 12 million in the nation and between 100,000 and 150,000 in Tennessee, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research group.

Home sales to undocumented immigrants could be worth $60 billion, said Mary Mancera a spokeswoman for the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals.

The Carranza sisters are tapping that pool. Originally from Honduras, a poor country in Central America, they landed in Memphis after doctors referred their teenage sister to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for cancer treatment. Their sister, Fanny Carranza, died in 1998.

Today, Marleny Carranza, 37, who studied law in Honduras, is part owner of Su Casa Realty.

The franchise opened in 2002 and anticipates selling its 1,500th house sometime next year, she said. It has 22 agents, most of them Spanish-speaking, and has sold homes throughout the area.

The sisters say about half their potential clients lack Social Security numbers. But they tell clients that they could sell the property if they’re deported, and many clients have family members with legal status who could help pay loans if they were gone. Many clients have substantial savings from blue collar jobs or small businesses. Some immigrants without Social Security numbers have paid as much as $100,000 up front, the sisters said.

“They save money, and that is power,” said Sandra Carranza, who said she left the field she’s trained in, electrical engineering, because selling houses to immigrants is more lucrative.

The sisters sometimes work with Bank of Bartlett, which accepts identification cards issued by foreign governments. The bank helps immigrants who lack Social Security cards obtain an individual tax identification number through the Internal Revenue Service, which doesn’t share the information with immigration enforcement officers. The bank uses tax returns and other payment records to allow immigrants without a credit history to show their ability to pay the mortgage, Byrd said.

Byrd wouldn’t say how many home loans the bank has given, but he said the total value is between $12 million and $14 million.

A private firm that Byrd wouldn’t name backs the loans — federally backed firms Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae don’t support such loans.

The adjustable rate mortgages start at 7.65 percent, he said. The average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate loan this week was 6.24 percent, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

He said none of the loan recipients has defaulted or been deported, and he considers it unlikely.

“For the life of me, I can’t remember the report of a deportation in recent times,” he said.

In recent years, federal immigration authorities have de-emphasized work site enforcement and gone after illegal immigrants who commit crimes. Work site arrests spiked this year, but the risk of deportation for illegal immigrants who stay out of trouble remains relatively small.

Temple Black, a spokesman for the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that deports illegal immigrants, said the agency has no position on the mortgage loan programs.

But Steve Camarota with the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington group calling for tighter immigration restrictions, says firms like Bank of Bartlett are unethical.

“You have an institution in the community working to undermine U.S. immigration laws,” he said.

But he also blames the federal government, saying it’s not serious about immigration enforcement, despite dramatic moves like Congress’ vote this fall to build 700 miles of fencing along the border.

“All the more mundane work of enforcing the law, like how you issue tax ID numbers, what instructions you give the bank, all those kinds of things they have no intention of doing,” he said.

Byrd said the federal government gave him the idea of extending home loans to illegal immigrants. He said that in 2004 he attended a conference in Chicago at which officials from agencies, including the Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., encouraged bankers to give services to illegal immigrants.

Spokesmen for the banking regulators say the agencies are urging lenders to extend services to immigrants and others likely to be outside the mainstream financial system. But they say they take no position on lending to illegal immigrants.

“We have neither encouraged or discouraged lending on the basis of immigration status,” said Robert Mooney, an FDIC official in Washington.

Other businesses are entering the market.

First Tennessee Bank brokers loans for people without Social Security numbers through Banco Popular, a Puerto Rican firm. National banks, including Wells Fargo & Co. and Citibank, are testing similar programs.

The Memphis Area Teachers’ Credit Union offers home loans to people without Social Security numbers, but a spokeswoman said the bank requires proof of legal immigration status.

People selling houses in two new subdivisions in Raleigh, Cedar Ridge and Ridgemont Trails, said they’re marketing to immigrants and won’t turn away those here illegally.

And immigrants’ heavy demand for housing is drawing more agents to the business.

Yeska Castillo, the Carranza sisters’ cousin, joined the firm a few months ago. She drives an SUV with an advertising pitch written in Spanish on the back windshield: “Do you want a house? No money? No Social Security? No credit? Yes, it’s possible!”

Juan Romo, a part owner in Su Casa, said he’s seen the number of Spanish-speaking real estate agents in the Memphis area jump from two or three in 1999 to about 50 today. He said that when people without Social Security numbers buy homes, they help develop the economy.

“They integrate more into Memphis, too,” he said. “I don’t see any wrong in doing that, really.”

— Daniel Connolly: 529-5296

Mortgage loans to illegal immigrants

Several local and national banks make home loans to people without Social Security numbers. While some people without Social Security numbers are here legally, many who don’t have the numbers are illegal immigrants.

The Bank of Bartlett and other firms offer loans to people without Social Security numbers. First Tennessee Bank brokers similar loans through Banco Popular, a Puerto Rican bank. The Memphis Area Teachers’ Credit Union offers loans to people without Social Security numbers, but a spokeswoman said they must have legal status.

Federal banking regulators encourage banks to reach out to the “unbanked,” and permit home sales to illegal immigrants, officials with the Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation said.
The Commercial Appeal
Others Posting
Illegal Immigration…..Americans are Mad in Escondido……Listen up Congress! and Immigration officials working hard to..WINK,WINK….Stop employers from hiring illegal labor, stickNstein
Morning Coffee,
Immigration Heating Up Texas
Illegal Immigration Showdown, Take Back Georgia

**This was a production of The Coalition Against Illegal Immigration (CAII). If you would like to participate, please go to the above link to learn more. Afterwards, email the coalition and let me know at what level you would like to participate.



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