By Freedom Newspapers
We must confess to befuddlement over all the anger directed at Bank of America for its policy, revealed Tuesday in a Wall Street Journal story, that it will offer credit cards to Spanish-speaking people who do not have Social Security numbers.
The implication, of course, is that the most likely candidates for those credit cards would be illegal immigrants.
But consider the context. Like it or not, most authorities believe 10 million to 12 million immigrants are now in the country illegally. Most of those people are working at some kind of job or another, even if it is day labor, or they wouldn’t stay here.
Unemployment among Americans is at historic lows, so they are not “stealing” jobs from native-born Americans or legal immigrants. While some illegal immigrants will probably return to Mexico some day, many intend to settle in the United States and would like to establish relative financial stability.
Bank of America has marketed aggressively to Hispanics for many years. It is hardly out of line to offer a product that will allow people with little or no credit to start building a credit history.
The Bank of America is not an agency of the federal government. It has not been deputized to enforce the government’s immigration laws. Although most banks routinely ask potential customers for a Social Security number (a practice many find dubious), there is no law requiring this.
Like any private business, the bank’s most important mission is to increase its customer base and its profits. Knee-jerk opponents of a market economy may decry this, but increasing market share and profits is what businesses do — and in doing so they serve society more effectively than do critics of capitalism or politicians.
Bank of America’s media person for credit cards did not return phone calls seeking comment, but based on media reports the program looks more like the way bank spokespersons have described it — not aimed specifically at illegal immigrants, but at people who lack solid credit histories.
The credit cards are not handed out like candy to people as they stumble across the border, but are offered to people who have been checking-account customers of the bank for at least three months without bouncing any checks. An additional fee is charged, the credit limit is relatively low (most media reports say $500), and the interest rate is higher than average.
Some might even argue this amounts to exploitation. But for many people with no credit history (whatever their legal status), it’s worth it to begin to establish credit.
There are risks to the bank, of course, but the notion that drug dealers or terrorists would flock to get such credit cards is ludicrous.
Can we calm down a little?