After his parents died, Jose Quinonez came to the United States when he was nine years old, undocumented. US immigration laws passed in 1986 granted him amnesty and allowed him to continue his education in the United States. He went on to graduate from the University of California at Davis, and later obtain a master’s in public affairs from Princeton. This year, he’s one of 23 MacArthur Grant winners and is recognized for the significant work he’s accomplished to help immigrants become more financially secure.

Early in his work, Quinonez realized that many immigrants from Latin America, Africa, and Asia already made loans between one another. However, because these exchanges were so informal, they weren’t documented in their credit history. This left many of these immigrants with low credit scores that did not necessarily reflect the actual lending habits happening on the ground. To address the problem, Quinonez founded Mission Asset Fund, which helps immigrants report these informal exchanges to credit bureaus. The organization has helped document over 6,000 loans in over seventeen states, covering more than $6 million dollars. On average, people who participate in his program raise their credit score by 168 points.

Read more on Quinonez in this profile by the L.A. Times.

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