Immigrants need a bank, not a concrete border

Even though banking is synonymous with responsible citizenry and an attempt at normalcy in the lives of both illegal and legal immigrants, anti-immigrant activists want to deny immigrants banking in yet another blatant attempt to make America both legally and socially unlivable.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, co-sponsor of the Photo Identification Security Act, portrays yet another kink in the anti-immigration camp’s battery of ideologically based arguments. By legally barring illegal immigrants from participating in private banking services, immigrants will be barred from using legitimate, private financial institutions like naturalized citizens, limiting their integration into American life. Oddly, it’s this same lack of integration that anti-immigration pundits claim is reason enough to argue against amnesty or a work permit program, even though they’re actively fostering it.

According to Chris Echegaray of the Tampa Tribune, the act “would require the federal government and financial institutions to accept only secure forms of identification from legal residents: a foreign or U.S. passport, a Citizenship and Immigration Services photo ID, or a Social Security card.” This would change the current policy, in which banks accept identity cards, issued by a consulate from a customer’s respective country to conduct banking services, which allows illegal immigrants with such cards to obtain accounts.

In essence, the proposed bill serves as an enormous disincentive to the laudable financial prudence illegal immigrants have demonstrated through their desire and need for banking services.

Those who desire banking services are most likely working legitimate jobs and want to create a sense of stability in their lives in America. The desire to bank also suggests an investment of time and effort into the country: The opening of checking and savings accounts is more indicative of stability rather than transience.

Yet Blackburn and those of the anti-immigration camp neglect the positives of illegal immigrants’ participation in banking and instead choose to describe it as an elusive danger. Apparently, illegal immigrants who want to bank just want to get cheap credit and abuse it. Blackburn’s spokesman, Matt Lambert, said to the Tribune that, “If someone wanted to wreak havoc with our financial system, it would be easy. If someone opens up a credit line of $10,000 and maxes it out, who pays for that? The merchants, the stores; the cost is passed to consumers in higher fees and rates.”

Of course, Lambert probably wasn’t thinking of all the natural-born Americans who abuse their credit lines when ranting about that “someone.”

He also probably wasn’t thinking that the abusive resident will have to pay higher rates, too. In addition, the said abuser, in their act of credit abuse, makes it almost impossible to get affordable credit in the future.

This is a fact that was apparently overlooked by Americans for Legal Immigration, a group that is actively against illegal immigrant banking. The group’s spokesman, William Gheen, said, “So it’s boohoo, the money in the jar got stolen from their home, and they need to get a credit card?”

I wonder if Gheen would react with the same nonchalant (read: heartless) “boohoo” if his entire month’s salary was stolen somehow, only to find society and law enforcement unsympathetic because he had an unpaid parking citation.

Immigrants should be embraced because they are, more often than not, emblematic of the drive that makes that workaholic American mentality so special – they snub complacency to quench the desire for better, and will often cross a desert, risk capture and prosecution for liberty and bounty.

Though Blackburn, Gheen and other anti-immigrant hounds may make a career by speaking of illegal immigrants disdainfully, they likely recount the story of their own progenitors’ journey to and settlement in America with pride and wonderment.

That’s not to say that hypocrisy makes their argument invalid. On the contrary, they should reconsider the distinction they are making in their respective attitude toward both groups of people. Irrespective of their relatives’ background and when they arrived in the United States, it isn’t hard to see that the immigrants of yesteryear and the immigrants of today, legal and illegal, have all invested in America with similar dreams.

Victoria Bekiempis is a sophomore majoring in history and French.