WASHINGTON (August 5, 2003) -- U.S. Treasury Department rules which permit banks to accept identification cards issued by Mexican consulates should remain unchanged, according to the chairman of the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration, who said the cards allow immigrants to cash checks, open bank accounts, and build self-sufficiency.
"Acceptance of consular identification cards by financial institutions helps to protect the rights and dignity of the undocumented by providing access to some of the essentials of living and working with dignity in the United States," said Orlando Coadjutor Bishop Thomas G. Wenski.
Bishop Wenski made his comments in a letter to Treasury Secretary John W. Snow as the Department considers whether to change regulations required by federal anti-terrorism laws setting standards for financial institutions to verify the identity of anyone applying for an account.
He said changing the regulations as a means of fighting terrorism "would be flawed and ineffective."
A Mexican Consular Identification Card, also known as a "matricula consular," is an official identification card issued by the Mexican government through its consulates. It is designed to identify only that the holder is of Mexican nationality and living outside of Mexico. Mexican consulates have been issuing the cards since 1871.
Other countries provide similar cards to their nationals, including France and Guatemala.
"We all need to identify ourselves when traveling, renting, ordering utilities, opening a bank account, or when encountering law enforcement," Bishop Wenski said. Without official identification in English, many undocumented people "face serious, sometimes insurmountable difficulties in cashing check, opening bank accounts, buying cars, and even in securing housing," he said.
More than 80 banks and credit unions – including the Bank of America, Citibank, and Wells Fargo – accept the consular identification cards, and to their own advantage, according to Bishop Wenski. He said that in the first six weeks after banks in Los Angeles began accepting the cards for identification purposes, Mexican nationals deposited more than $50 million.
"Denying hard working immigrants access to bank accounts will not make us safer as a country, but it will hurt those immigrants by making them more vulnerable to robbery, exploitative lending practices, and exclusion from the benefits of a credit record," Bishop Wenski said. "It would be a flawed and ineffective means of combating terrorism and regulating our nation's immigration policies."