Latino families, the last major group to attain the American dream of Home Ownership, have been especially devastated by the wave of foreclosures since the beginning of the 2008 recession.
And in New York, the rate of foreclosures among Latinos is higher that that among every other population group.
A recent study by the New York Communities for Change organization found that blacks and Hispanics constituted 32 percent of homeowners in New York between December 2009 and December 2010, but a full 56 percent of those were notified pre-foreclosures, making them 175 percent more likely to be foreclosed upon than the general population of homeowners facing the same fate.
Christopher and Wendy Castro, a Dominican couple living in the Long Island hamlet of Brentwood in the Town of Islip, are making a desperate attempt to keep the home they acquired in 1989.
Wendy told HuffPost LatinoVoices that they applied for a loan modification in June 2010 but their application was rejected. Then, they received a notification that their house was in the foreclosure process.
“We’ve paid our mortgage for almost 22 years, but because of the poor economy, my husband’s business has declined to where we fell behind on our payments,” said Wendy. Her husband, Christopher, added that he reopened his business to increase his income and resume payments, but it wasn't enough.
Blanca Ramirez, an immigrant from Peru, is going through a similar situation. In 2006 the bank granted her a high-risk loan for her home. Her trouble started after she divorced.
High-risk loans are those where applicants lack minimal criteria like sufficient credit history or income level, or have had serious problems paying debt.
Ramirez also sought a loan modification, and also was rejected.
The Latino families interviewed for this story described the contracts they signed as “too complex,” which they say that, combined with their recognized limited fluency in English, was particularly frustrating.
Ramirez, whose home is in Levittown, Long Island, works for the postal service and has a second job.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman of New York is looking for ways to establish a system of accountability and relief for affected families. Together with other prosecutors throughout the nation, Schneiderman is launching an initiative that would “penalize Wall Street giants that have gone unpunished.”
“Millions of people have lost their homes to foreclosure, or are reaching the point of no return. In the interest of fairness and justice, it is essential that we help those in need and determine who is accountable,” he said in statements made to HuffPost LatinoVoices.
His office, said Schneiderman, “is committed to a detailed analysis of all possible causes that led to this situation and do everything possible to ensure that it never happens again.”
According to a report issued by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, although in the first quarter of 2011 the mortgage foreclosure crisis in New York state was less severe than in other parts of the country, the southern area, including Long Island, has been especially affected.
The Suffolk and Nassau counties in Long Island, were Hispanics comprise 16.5% and 14.6% of the population, were ranked first and second among the highest foreclosure rates in the state during the first quarter of this year. From 2006 to 2010 Suffolk registered 30,552 foreclosures and Nassau registered 22,376.
In states with a significant immigrant presence such as Arizona, Nevada, California, Florida, New Jersey and New York, the mortgage crisis hit hardest among black and Hispanics, who are more likely to face foreclosure, according to a report by the Pew Research Center.