Don’t Leave Money Behind: Protecting Mexican Migrant Assets

Don’t Leave Money Behind: Protecting Mexican Migrant Assets

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Don’t Leave Money Behind campaign will help Mexican migrants protect and retrieve their U.S. assets when they return to Mexico.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Forced or hasty departure from homes and communities in the U.S. subjects migrants to financial and child custody problems. Many protective steps can be taken to avoid custody problems and save assets, but awareness of these steps is low. Once a migrant is detained or has left the U.S., regaining assets – a home, car or money in a bank account – is much more difficult, especially since immigration laws restrict migrants from reentering the U.S. after deportation, and especially when legal proceedings are necessary. Rights to keep assets and custody are independent of the right to stay in the U.S.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Our solution is to conduct public education and legal campaigns to help vulnerable populations in the U.S. protect their assets and custodial rights before a crisis hits, and to help recover assets or child custody for those in Mexico who didn’t prepare. Appleseed has written English and Spanish versions of “Protecting Assets at a Time of Deportation” to help migrants collect unpaid wages; protect bank accounts, cars, homes, and businesses; manage assets held in a child’s name; and protect child custody rights. Mexico Appleseed and Appleseed will leverage our connections and pro bono contacts to prevent the financial fall‐out of being detained or deported, which will allow migrants more time to focus on the immediate legal issues they face if such a scenario arises.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Mexico Appleseed recognizes that migrants need this information both before they migrate to the U.S. and before they leave the U.S. to return home – whether forced or voluntary. The English and Spanish manuals available via Mexico Appleseed’s website serve as the basic information that migrants need to protect their assets. We will also make the material in our manuals “live” by transmitting the content via film, friendly videos (or spots), written summaries and media in both countries. Mexico Appleseed has developed close relationships with government agencies in Mexico that are interested in being part of this effort and helping to provide public education and plans to continue these relationships with the new administration: • Banxico: Banco de México = Mexico Central Bank • CNDH: Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos = National Commission for Human Rights • CONDUSEF : Comisión Nacional para la Defensa de los Usuarios de las Instituciones Financieras = National Commission for the Defense of Users of Financial Institutions • IME: Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior = Institute of the Mexicans Abroad • INM: Instituto Nacional de Migración = Migration National Institute We will also develop pro bono clinics to provide legal support .

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Appleseed has not identified any materials similar to ours. The Women’s Refugee Commission is working on a tool kit and we will coordinate our efforts with theirs. We also plan to work with the Department of Homeland Security’s Legal Orientation Program, which contracts with the Vera Institute and others to provide information to detainees. Following our initial publication of the English version, Appleseed conducted extensive distribution to 300 law clinics, academics, health care and social work providers, foreign embassies and consulates and members of the religious community. Other NGOs can help us “grow” the project by disseminating this information.

Founding Story

Appleseed’s “Aha!” moment occurred following Appleseed’s international presentation urging the importance of public education for migrants. A credit union official approached Appleseed and commented that he felt so sorry for migrants who left assets in bank and credit union accounts when they are deported, because these assets belong to the migrant. He asked Appleseed to take on this issue and do something to help migrants understand that the assets belong to them and can be retained as they return home. This suggestion was dramatized in real-time as Appleseed staff observed migrants returning to Mexico at Christmastime following Oklahoma’s passage of one of the most onerous U.S. anti-immigrant restrictions, with beds, baby carriages and luggage strapped to car roofs. This poignantly raised the question as to whether non-tangible equity and earnings were also returning to Mexico with the migrants.
About You
Fundación Appleseed Mexico, A.C.
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

Fundación Appleseed Mexico, A.C.

Organization Country


Country where this project is creating social impact


How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Has the organization received awards or honors? Please tell us about them

UNICEF Mexico 2012 1st Place for Investigation for the report, “Children at the Border: The Screening, Protection and Repatriation of Unaccompanied Mexican Minors;” The Financial Times’ innovator awards for 2010 awarded first prize to DLA for its work with Mexico Appleseed in building a pro bono culture in Mexico. The same issue also awarded a prize to Latham & Watkins for its work with Mexico Appleseed and Appleseed in reforming the U.S. immigration courts.

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How long have you been in operation?

Operating for more than 5 years

Which of the following best describes the barrier(s) your innovation addresses? Choose up to two

Access, Transparency.

Social Impact
Please describe the goal of your initiative; outline what you are trying to achieve

Migrants who amassed assets in the U.S. have rights to those assets and child custody rights, regardless of whether they leave the U.S. voluntarily or by deportation. Mexico Appleseed and Appleseed want these migrants to preserve these rights and bring assets back to Mexico with them. These assets can open the door to financial security in Mexico and lead to savings and investments – in education, in homes, in cars, and other opportunities requiring a base level of capital – assets they have earned.

Which barrier(s) to financial inclusion does your solution seek to address? (select all applicable)

Other (Please describe below).

If you selected 'other' above, please specify which other barriers to financial inclusion you solution seeks to address:

Threat of loss of assets rightfully owned by the migrant and the migrants child custodial rights.

For which underserved or excluded communities will your solution create access to valuable, affordable, secure and comprehensive financial services?

The migrant community often – moves without benefit of documented identity. This invisibility and lack of documentation precludes many migrants from establishing proper beneficiaries for their property in the U.S. or transferring these assets when they return home.

Deportations from the U.S. total approximately 400,000 per year, and, according the Colegio de la Frontera Norte de México (COLEF); one million of the individuals deported since 2009 are Mexicans. Many migrants are precipitously detained. Others leave when a family member is sick, immigration proceedings are imminent, or economic opportunity dries up.

When they are able to recover their assets they can enter a portal to formal financial services in Mexico as they will have capital for investment or savings.

Could your solution work in other geographies or regions? If so, where?

This solution can work in any country in which migrants face either forced or voluntary return home. The manual must be adapted to the laws for other countries; but it provides the basic template of property and relationships at risk when migrants from any country return home.

If your solution is dramatically successful, how will things be different in 10 years?

Appleseed will have educated the Mexican migrant population currently living in the U.S. and those who are thinking of migrating to the U.S. about how they should protect their assets as they work to achieve their dream of a better life. If they lose all that they have earned, they will also lose hope and opportunities for their families.

Many immigrants' greatest anxieties at the prospect of deportation are the fates of their family and home. It never occurs to them that the law would allow these important assets and relationships to survive that process. However, U.S. courts have held repeatedly that deportation is only a remedial measure, not a punishment.

What will have had to have changed to make this happen?

Mexico Appleseed will have executed a successful information campaign so that migrants and their families do everything they can to protect assets amassed in the U.S. and to retain child custody rights.

Mexico will have brought this information to immigrants in time so they can make the preparations needed to protect their children and life's work, and more fundamentally , they can live their lives before and after deportation or voluntary departure with the confidence that being sent home will not mean losing everything.

These things will change:
• This deportation advice will be widely available in Mexico in Spanish;
• Extensive public education and media will cover these rights;
• Migrants and their families will have protected their assets.

What has been the impact of your solution to date?

Appleseed distributed the original manual to around 300 law clinics, academics, health care and social work providers, foreign embassies and consulates and members of the religious community. Attorneys helped distribute it to 11,000 immigration lawyers, Mexican consular officials, accredited representatives of non-profit charitable agencies approved to help low income foreign nationals, MALDEF and Spanish-speaking media.

Appleseed then conducted interviews with 25 NGOs that have used our materials. The responses were overwhelmingly positive.

Paul Parsons, nationally known immigration lawyer, said: “Thanks to Appleseed for compiling this guide ... Appleseed's manual should be widely distributed because it is so useful.”

The English and Spanish versions are posted to the Mexico Appleseed and Appleseed websites.

What is your projected impact over the next five years?

Mexico Appleseed projects a significant impact on Mexican migrants who will learn that they own their hard-earned assets, even when returning home, and that steps can be taken to protect these assets. For example, a migrant returning home, leaving adult children in the U.S., can pass property on to them. Or, a migrant returned not through his own choice can designate another individual to take legal action to protect his property. Migrants will clear their bank accounts before leaving. And they will know what their rights are with regard to children remaining in the U.S. or returning with them.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

This material is complicated and may be difficult for many migrants to understand. In some cases, migrants may fear legal authorities and may resist taking the precautions recommended.

To change a culture is always a barrier itself and we want to change the culture of risking loss of assets to a culture of taking technical – in many cases challenging - steps to protect assets.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

MX Appleseed will disseminate material about protecting assets in partnership with the Mexican government and NGOs.

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Task 1

Develop content via film, videos (MX Appleseed is working on a child custody video), checklists and media in both countries.

Task 2

Build alliances with Mexican consulates, migrant and hometown clubs, and U.S. and government entities to disseminate this work.

Task 3

Work with the press and public media and corporate publications to spread the word about how to protect assets.

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

Mexican migrants will know how to protect their assets and will aggressively take action to do so.

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Task 1

Distribute content via Mexican and U.S. employers, unions, providers, Mexican government offices and consulates in U.S.

Task 2

Work with Mexican consulates, migrant and hometown clubs, and U.S. and government entities to disseminate this work.

Task 3

Leverage Mexico Appleseed’s pro bono to establish clinics and train intermediaries in asset protection and recovery.

Tell us about your partnerships

The Mexican government has been increasingly interested in supporting migrant communities and the work of Mexico Appleseed to serve these communities. The government has even offered to open their own resources – web pages, contacts, and relationships with NGOs – to further this work.

Mexico Appleseed will explore with its partners creation of clear materials to help migrants contemplating migration to understand these issues.

Are you currently targeting other specific populations, locations, or markets for your innovation? If so, where and why?

Mexico Appleseed is currently targeting a “macro” approach to work with government officials and the national media to spread the word about these rights. Then, Appleseed will select willing organizations and intermediaries for partnerships. We recognize that there are places where individuals come together – workplaces and unions, clubs and hometown associations, social services, and religious gathering places – where we can maximize delivery of this message.

What type of operating environment and internal organizational factors make your innovation successful?

This project will work best when these operating environment factors are in place: financial institutions willing to work with Mexico Appleseed and Appleseed to help migrants transmit assets home, Mexican financial institutions ready to receive these assets and put them to work for Mexicans to achieve their financial goals and legal practitioners willing to help with some of the more complex activities to help migrants preserve assets. An important internal organizational factor is Mexico Appleseed’s need to repackage this information and manage this knowledge, packaging it in understandable and simple segments via film, video and other media.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list

Appleseed will need introductions to major media outlets that can serve as a megaphone to get this information to Mexican migrants and their families.