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Undocumented immigrants in California may soon have a new route to purchasing a home

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Undocumented immigrants in California may have a new opportunity to achieve the American dream of owning a home. Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno) recently introduced Assembly Bill 1840 to expand eligibility for a state loan program, making it clear that loans for first-time buyers are accessible to undocumented immigrants.

The California Dream for All Shared Appreciation Loans program, launched by the California Housing Finance Agency last March, provides qualified first-time home buyers with a loan worth up to 20% of the purchase price of a home or condominium. These loans do not accrue interest or require monthly payments. Instead, when the mortgage is refinanced or the property is sold, the borrower repays the original loan amount plus 20% of the increase in the home’s value.

This program was originally created to assist low- and middle-income individuals in purchasing a home, but it did not address eligibility based on immigration status, according to Arambula. “The ambiguity for undocumented individuals, despite meeting other criteria like having a qualified mortgage, highlights the need for us to introduce this legislation,” he stated in an interview.

If Assembly Bill 1840 is approved, it will redefine “first-time home buyer” to include undocumented immigrants. Without this clarification, undocumented individuals might be deterred from participating in the program. Arambula emphasized that homeownership has historically been a key way to build wealth in the U.S. and that these social and economic benefits should be accessible to all.

Last year, the California Dream for All Shared Appreciation Loans program reached its application capacity of approximately 2,300 applicants in just 11 days, leading to a temporary halt in the program. This year, the program will utilize a lottery system instead of the previous first-come, first-serve basis. Interested individuals can now submit their applications, with the lottery scheduled for April.

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Additionally, there have been changes to the program’s income eligibility criteria. Previously set at 150% of a county’s median area income, the threshold has been reduced to 120%. This means that applicants must earn below the specified threshold annually to qualify for the program. For instance, in Los Angeles County, the income threshold is $155,000.

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Chats and reflections on the present moment.

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Lydia Polgreen

Credit…Will Heath/NBC, via Getty Images

It is a rare thing in our rapidly secularizing country to be confronted with piety and devotion in popular culture. So it was a surprise, and a balm, to watch a man who prays daily and talks openly about his devout faith storm a bastion of earthly godlessness: “Saturday Night Live.”

I am referring, of course, to the comedian Ramy Youssef, who hosted the show on what he described in his opening monologue as “an incredibly spiritual weekend,” noting Ramadan, Easter and the arrival of a new Beyoncé album.

“I’m doing the Ramadan one,” he quipped, to peals of laughter, unspooling a very funny bit about how loving Muslims are. Youssef has mined his experience as a believer among the profane in gentle standup specials and a namesake sitcom. His entire monologue glowed with a welcoming warmth — Muslims, he seemed to say: We’re just like you.

In a country that is supposedly obsessed with diversity and inclusion, it is remarkable how rare it is to hear from a practicing Muslim in America.

Surveys by the Institute for Policy and Understanding, a nonpartisan research organization focused on Muslim Americans, have consistently found that Muslims are the most likely group to report religious discrimination in the United States. According to a Pew survey conducted in 2021, 78 percent of Americans said that there was either a lot or some discrimination against Muslims in our society. Muslims are no more likely to commit crimes than members of any other group, but crimes in which Muslims are suspects get outsized media coverage, research has shown.

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It is no surprise, then, that Islamophobia is perhaps the most tolerated form of religious prejudice. Right now, Senate Republicans appear to have persuaded several Senate Democrats to vote against a Muslim judicial nominee after smearing him, with no evidence at all, as an antisemite.

Many of the skits that toyed with religion on “S.N.L.” on Saturday were funny — Ozempic for Ramadan! Genius. But part of me winced through them as well, because I saw in Youssef something that other members of minority groups have had to do to “earn” their place in the safety of the mainstream: the performance of normalcy, of being nonthreatening and sweet, the requirement to prove that your community belongs in America just like everyone else’s.

I loved Youssef’s monologue, in which he bravely pleaded, “Please, free the people of Palestine. And please, free the hostages. All of the hostages.”

“I am out of ideas,” Youssef declared toward the end of his monologue. “All I have is prayers.”

To which this nonbeliever can only say: Same, Ramy. Same.

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