There was a big brouhaha last week when Bank of America announced plans to issue credit cards to undocumented residents without social security cards. Wells Fargo has announced it is considering doing the same. The bank says,
"Wells Fargo recognizes a great need for equal access to financial products and services for all customers who want to build credit, establish financial security and achieve the 'American dream.'"
I hope Wells Fargo proceeds with the program. As one state legislator said,
"The fact that banks are offering credit cards to foreign nationals, means only that they are spending money in our local economy. This reflects the important economic impact that immigrants make," said Gallardo, minority whip. "Immigrants have been, and will continue to be, a vital part of our local economy. The free market dictates the products that banks offer."
There was a lot of criticism after Bank of America announced its program. The Bank responded:
We created this pilot program in Los Angeles to help Bank of America customers with little or no credit history build a solid credit history with a leading bank, and to strengthen our relationships with individuals and families we hope will become loyal Bank of America customers in the future as their financial needs grow. As with all our products, the program meets the identification requirements of the USA Patriot Act, U.S. Treasury Department regulations and internal fraud prevention procedures. The bank requires that all applicants provide us approved forms of ID, including an unexpired, U.S. government-issued or foreign government-issued identification card. In fact, while many people legally in our country do not possess Social Security numbers, 84% of the participants in our pilot do. The remaining 16% meet the requirements for government-issued ID as set forth above. Secured credit cards are nothing new. They are offered at Bank of America and many other financial institutions as a way for customers to build their credit history. The L.A. pilot is simply a new promotion of a secured credit card product that has been available for years.
Tom Tancredo opposes the plan. When Bank of America announced its program, he said he was afraid the bank would give a credit card to a terrorist. As columnist Ruben Navarrette responded, Get Real.
I wish critics would give the scare tactics a rest and come clean about what really bugs them: The fear that Americans are getting comfortable with illegal immigration and the concern that initiatives like this will take the steam out of enforcement efforts by making immigrants seem less threatening.
The undocumented living in the United States work, pay taxes, shop and support the economy. It's only fair, and it's completely legal, that if they have the proper identification documents, even without a social security number, that they be allowed to obtain credit cards and home mortgages.
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