Local Banks Tap Illegal Immigrant Market

Miguel Gonzalez, Daily Press (Victorville, Calif.), July 17

VICTORVILLE—National and local banks have found in their quest to attract more customers that catering to illegal immigrants can significantly increase traffic and business.

A widely ignored group for many years, illegal immigrants have become a force within the nation’s economy, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research center based in Washington, D.C.

Research by the center shows that of the 13.9 million illegal immigrants living in the United States, 6.3 million of them were employed as of March 2004.

A recent study by Inter-American Dialogue revealed that consumer remittances to Mexico exceeded $14 billion in 2003, surpassing foreign direct investment in Mexico.

The global remittance market is estimated at $110 billion, with remittances to Central America accounting for more than $10 billion, the study indicated.

Based on the number of illegal immigrants living in the Victor Valley, local banks have started accepting documents such as Mexican passports and the controversial matricula consular, an identification that many illegals seek to acquire because California identifications are reserved for those with legal permission to be in the country.

In the Victor Valley, banks such as Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Desert Community Bank and The Members Own Federal Credit Union have for a while catered to the immigrant community by accepting the matricula consular as a valid document to open an account.

“We cater to everybody. The only color we understand here is the color of green,” Desert Community Bank President Ron Wilson said.

Wells Fargo spokeswoman Marie Trigg said that since accepting the matricula consular—in November 2001—525,000 people have acquired accounts nationwide with the financial institution.

“It’s driving up accounts and business for us, that’s for sure. The institution is working to keep on providing services that will mold this group’s lifestyle,” Trigg said.

In addition to having bank representatives who speak Spanish, the four financial institutions have facilitated ways for clients to wire money to their home countries. They also have facilitated loans and mortgage programs.

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