The life of an immigrant

One of the experiences I was looking forward to (or perhaps dreading, it’s one of those two) was experiencing the life of an immigrant to the US.  Since one of our main tasks is to work with the local immigrant and refugee populations in the Houston area, me being an immigrant as well should allow me some insight on to their experiences.  I know it’s not perfect since I already look like a Texas local and speak the language, but I am pretty confident I will share some experiences.

For example, I am learning the power of the Social Security number and what happens if you don’t have one.  Or if you don’t have any credit history.  I don’t think people realize the frustration of not having these things.

I’m still waiting for my SS# to arrive.  Michelle has one, but doesn’t have any credit history in the US.  In Canada, we have lots of history.  But the US credit system has never heard of either of us.  This has made it tough to purchase the following items so far:

1. Health insurance – Michelle and the kids aren’t an issue.  But there is a chance still that I won’t be allowed to have standard health insurance in the US purely because my SS# (when I get it) is so new.  I may have to purchase a different plan which is pretty sub-rate.  Or just never do anything dangerous!

2. Car insurance – The insurance company(s) want to do credit checks before issuing a policy.  No SS# means no credit check.  And I don’t know what it means if you have no credit history.  So the search is on for a car insurance company who doesn’t need to do a credit check!

3. Cell phones – In order to have the honour of signing a two year contract for cell service, they need to do a credit check.  No credit history means no contract.  “But sir, you can always sign up for one of our pre-paid plans!”

And there is the issue.  If you have no credit history, there seems to be options available.  You know the kind, you usually purchase them in a dark alley from a guy in a trench coat.  And they are always way more expensive than what people with credit histories get.

Does that make sense?

You want to purchase a service, but don’t have a history of purchasing services

Therefore you are not allowed to pay the standard retail price that is probably expensive already

Therefore you need to purchase the “no or bad credit history” plan which costs more

Therefore you cannot afford to pay for your shiny new service, or possibly other needs like food

Therefore you either default on your service or take out other high cost credit to help pay for it

All of which gives you a bad credit rating and returns you the top of this little circle

And this is what we put new Americans (and Canadians) as well as our own poor and needy through.  (may I also add that those of us privileged enough to be born here perhaps walk around wondering why these poor people keep getting into credit trouble?)

And so I end my little rant.  Hopefully it achieved more than just me letting of some steam, but if not I feel better.  Thanks for “listening”!


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