Banking on Illegals
By Laura Sonderup, Director, Heinrich Hispanidad
The Latin American immigrant population is growing quickly, yet it is a population that is largely unserved by financial institutions. According to most estimates, less than half of the 17.5 million Latin American immigrants in the United States have a bank or credit union account.
Serving these immigrants is a win-win scenario for both immigrant communities and financial institutions. Immigrants benefit from a safe place to keep their money, low-cost remittance options, and the potential to build credit for the future. Financial institutions benefit from serving an untapped market and establishing relationships with immigrant families as they become more integrated into the U.S. financial system.
Regulatory changes within the past few years have given financial institutions the latitude to determine for themselves what types of documentation are sufficiently reliable for a customer to open an account. Most major U.S. banks and credit unions have determined Mexico’s Matrícula Consular to be an acceptable form of identification. Unfortunately, their acceptance of the Matrícula, and other forms of foreign government issued-identification, has become embroiled in the larger debate over immigration control policy.
According to the Federal Reserve Bank, the Anti-Money Laundering legislation and the USA Patriot Act are designed to balance homeland security and effective banking regulations for anyone who lives and works in the United States, regardless of citizenship. Moreover, the Bush Administration has repeatedly stated that it values the benefits brought to the U.S. by immigrants, and does not appear to share some of the more conservative views on immigration, like those promoted by Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-CO).
Moderator’s Comment: Should financial institutions be allowed to open accounts for prospective customers whose status in this country is questionable,
thereby providing these individuals with a safe, affordable place to deposit their paychecks and build their savings? Or does this simply facilitate an illegal immigrant’s ability
to assimilate into the mainstream? –
Laura Sonderup – Moderator