Capitol Hill (CNSNews.com) - Mexican citizens living in the United States illegally are allegedly being helped by at least one national banking chain that now accepts a card issued by the Mexican government as valid identification for opening accounts. But an immigration reform group said Friday those banks are violating federal law.
"We were approached by the Consulate General of Mexico to help find solutions to the barriers that Mexicans are encountering when trying to open a checking or savings account at a U.S. bank," said Lynn Pike, regional president for Wells Fargo in metro Los Angeles announcing the decision last year. "It became clear that one of those barriers is having forms of identification that are accepted by banks.
Wells Fargo accepts the Mexican "Matricula Consular" - or Certificate of Consular Registration - as a "primary" form of identification in the place of other forms of U.S. or state government issued identification. Wells Fargo also requires applicants to have a major credit card, department store credit card, or student identification card with a photo to open an account.
"By removing this barrier," Pike explained, "we want Mexican citizens to know that Wells Fargo welcomes their business and wants to be the financial services company of choice for the Hispanic community."
The Matricula Consular is a photo identification card issued by local consulates to Mexican nationals living in foreign countries. The card is valid for five years, and applicants are not questioned about their immigration status. It costs applicants $29.
"These cards are issued almost exclusively to illegal aliens," charged Craig Nelson, director of ProjectUSA, an advocacy group created "to inform the public" about "mass immigration and overpopulation."
Information published by the Mexican government corroborates Nelson's claim.
"The Certificate of Consular Registry is exclusively for Mexican citizens, independent of their legal stay in this country," according to a translation of the Matricula Consular page of the Mexican Consulate's website in San Diego.
"If someone were in the country legally they wouldn't need the Matricula Consular," Nelson explained. "They would have official U.S.-issued identification, and they would use that to open a bank account."
By "welcoming the business" of illegal aliens, Nelson said banks are breaking the law. He points to Title 8 Section 1324 of the U.S. Code.
The law mandates that: "Any person who ... encourages or induces an alien to come to, enter, or reside in the United States, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that such coming to, entry, or residence is or will be in violation of law ... or aids or abets the commission of any of the preceding acts ... in which the offense was done for the purpose of commercial advantage or private financial gain, shall be fined under title 18, imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both."
The implication, Nelson believes, is clear.
"Courts have held that the word 'encourage' there means allowing an illegal alien to stand equally with an American citizen," he explained. "To us it seems plain that opening a bank account for an illegal alien encourages the illegal alien to remain in the United States."
Wells Fargo maintains, however, that it is not the bank's responsibility to inquire about the immigration status of its customers.
"We don't feel that we're breaking the law because we don't bring (immigrants) in, nor do we harbor anyone," said Julia Tunis, a spokeswoman for Wells Fargo. "And, the Matricula card does not induce anyone to come to the United States."
Calls to the Mexican Embassy in Washington, DC, seeking comment on ProjectUSA's allegations were not returned prior to the filing of this story for publication.
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