Dozens of major United States banking institutions led by Bank of America are implementing a nationwide amnesty program for millions of illegal immigrants by accepting as valid identification Mexico’s matricula consular cards, which are just a “laminated piece of paper,” critics of the plan have charged.

The plan, which was outlined in a report by the Center for Immigration Studies four years ago, is gaining notoriety only now because of the Mexican government’s specific goal of flying under the radar by working with local and area jurisdictions, instead of national leaders, according to the CIS report.

Headlines in the past few weeks on the issue have been dominated by plans by Bank of America to accept the consular cards to establish credit card accounts. Officials with Americans for Legal Immigration also have released a long list of American banking institutions that are moving down the same path.

“But Mexico’s new approach has become a direct challenge to U.S. sovereignty – by aggressively lobbying state and local governments, Mexico is changing America’s de facto immigration policy in lieu of congressional action,” the report, written by CIS Fellow Marti Dinerstein, said. It’s happening through the formal recognition of those matricula cards.

The circumstances at that time, shortly after 9/11, were that the U.S. Patriot Act was being implemented and as part of that, the banking industry was asked about its verification procedures, and how the transfer of terrorist funds could be limited.

The response was that since the U.S. had no absolutely secure ID, the banking industry would be unfairly burdened by having to require one, so the U.S. Treasury Department gave a “tacit” approval for such documents as consular cards, according to an expert in the field.

Treasury said in a report under the Act that, “the proposed regulations do not discourage bank acceptance of the ‘matricula consular’ identity card that is being issued by the Mexican government to immigrants.”

Simultaneously, the report noted, the Mexican government was upset over the U.S. focus on national security and pullback from mass amnesty proposals after 9/11, and turned its “aggressive” grass-roots lobbying on local institutions.

Marti Dinerstein, who wrote the CIS report, told WND that the Treasury Department at that time, while it didn’t specifically allow the use of matricula consular cards, essentially told banking institutions they wouldn’t be stopped but it would be at their own risk.

That, however, conflicts with the general federal ban on “aiding and abetting” illegal activities, including illegal immigration, she told WND. “My position is that banks should not be accepting matricula cards. They are insecure ID documents that facilitate and institutionalize illegal immigration.”

Her report documented Mexico’s campaign to institutionalize the card to provide “quasi-legal” status for illegals in the U.S “without waiting for action from Washington.” She said in addition to banking institutions, local law enforcement also was lobbied by Mexico and hundreds of agencies have begun accepting the card as official for the purpose of obtaining a driver’s license.

Once that is obtained, the consular card can be thrown away, because the rest of the official documentation in the U.S. hinges on that license, the report said. But like a building on an unstable foundation, there are huge problems because there aren’t safeguards to prevent multiple matricula cards being given to the same person, and the holder’s identity never is confirmed when it is issued.

Worse yet, the acceptance of Mexico’s card “sets a precedent, making it almost impossible to reject similar cards presented by illegal aliens from other countries, including those which have sent terrorists to the United States in the past,” the report said.

The National Illegal Immigration Boycott Coalition is suggesting people close their accounts with banks using the matricula, and sign an online petition opposing that precedent.

Organizer William Gheen, president of Raleigh-based ALIPAC, agreed with Dinerstein’s assessment that the practice violates federal bans on helping illegal activities.

“Nobody is above the law, including Bank of America,” he said.

Reps. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Tom Price, R-Ga., members of the House Financial Services Committee, already have suggested that hearings be held on the plan, because of concerns over promoting illegal immigration and identity theft.

But Bank of America spokeswoman Betsy Weinberger said the card was not “specifically developed or marketed for illegal immigrants,” adding the initiative allows customers to build a credit history with a “leading bank.”

Dinerstein said a large part of Mexico’s interest in establishing the card is so that illegal immigrants have more secure and less costly ways of transferring the billions of dollars they earn in the United States to Mexico and into its economy.

Gheen told WND that his contention is that “What they’re doing is either (a) against the law and this is another case of non-enforcement, which seems to be the reason for the illegal alien crisis, or (b) if we’re wrong and banks have found a loophole, that loophole needs to be closed immediately.”

“Aiding and abetting illegal aliens is a felony under federal law Section 8 USC 1324(a)(1)(A)(iv)(b)(iii). This law has a six year statute of limitations and companies currently violating these laws can be prosecuted up to six years in the future,” according to Gheen’s organization.

Gheen noted that the penalty for “aiding and abetting” illegal aliens is up to five years in prison, but if done for commercial profit, that increases to 10 years.

“Which is the reason I can’t open up a cab stand in a border crossing zone where I would be aid illegals,” he said.

He said the end result will be Americans being forced to accept illegal immigrants because business will say, “we’ve already banked them.”

Gheen’s coalition has assembled more than 100 anti-illegal immigration groups who in turn compiled the list of banks accepting the Mexican cards.

“We want consumers to know where they can take their money, when they take it out of illegal immigration supporting banks like B of A and Wells
Fargo,” Gheen said.

The CIS report said the Mexican government had been expecting in September 2001 to obtain its goal of exemption of visa limits and a “regularized” immigration status for Mexicans in the United States. Then 9/11 happened and the national effort was derailed, so it turned to local efforts.

Those promotions of the matricula have been successful, too. “In localities where it is accepted as valid identified, the matricula consular has reduced the chances that illegal Mexican aliens will be arrested and deported, given them entr?e to mainstream banking services, provided access to city and state services – and in 13 states gained them exactly the same driver’s licenses as those carried by American citizens,” the CIS report said.

However, the report notes, “the matricula is just a laminated piece of paper. Its value derives from the fact that U.S. police departments, banks, local governments, and state motor vehicle bureaus voluntarily have agreed to accept it, no questions asked.”

Calling the campaign “brilliant propaganda,” Mexican officials at all levels have been lobbying mayors, police chiefs, bank officials, state legislators and others. “They speak at official meetings, court prominent community leaders, meet with the editorial boards of newspapers, and seize every opportunity given for media coverage.”

Possession of the card also discourages local authorities from deporting illegal immigrants, in violation of the law, the report said.

“For the police to ignore federal immigration law is tantamount to subverting it. And that is exactly what has been happening since the Mexican government launched its full-court press to get local law enforcement officials to accept the matricula on [an equal] basis with U.S.-issued identification or valid passports,” the report said.

“At first blush it seems almost impossible to believe that some of the largest and most prestigious banks in the country are knowingly offering accounts to Mexican illegal aliens,” the report said. “The most important reason is that neither banking regulators nor the U.S. Treasury Department have objected to opening banking accounts for Mexican illegals who use the matricula as their identification. In fact, a good case can be made that regulators and the Treasury Department have tacitly encouraged banks to do so.”

In fact, the Internal Revenue Service has even issued Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers to foreign nationals who were ineligible to get a Social Security card as a way to encourage compliance with U.S. tax laws.

“The irony is that Mexican banks do not hold the matricula in high regard as an identity document…,” the report said.

“No one disputes that Mexico has a right to issue the matricula consular and maintain a registry of its citizens living in other nations. What is in dispute is the wisdom of American institutions and governmental entities accepting as official identification a foreign government’s document, the purpose of which is to make it easier for their nationals to reside in the United States illegally,” the report said.


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