In recent months, Bank of America has been accused of freezing or threatening to freeze the accounts of customers after inquiring about their legal status in the United States. In one such case, Bank of America froze the account of local South Floridian Saeed Moshfegh due to a discrepancy between the paperwork provided by Moshfegh and the paperwork the company thought was necessary.
In order to maintain his account at the bank, Saeed was required to complete the burdensome task of filling out paperwork every six months in order to prove his legal status in the country. However, even though he had completed the paperwork, Moshfegh still had his account frozen.
The University of Miami student, who has been living and studying legally in the United States for the last seven
years, was told by bank officials that the paperwork he provided was incorrect even though he was adamant that he had submitted the correct form. As a result, Saeed was not able to pay his rent and his credit card payments were rejected.
Cases like this have been popping up throughout the country. Josh Collins, born in Kansas, received a letter from Bank of America asking him about his citizenship status. As Collins is a natural born citizen, he thought the letter must be spam and ignored it. Unfortunately, his bank account was subsequently frozen. Similarly, David Lewis, from Tennessee, received a similar letter which led to him cancelling his account after a phone conversation with the bank.
These situations seem unusual as proof of citizenship is not required to actually open a bank account in the United States. According to the Miami Herald, Stephanie Collins, a representative for the Office of the Comptroller for Currency, stated that banks are only required to maintain current customer information and report suspicious transactions.
These events serve only to increase the pressure and scrutiny felt by immigration populations throughout the country as the Trump administration continues to pursue harsher immigration laws. Instances such as this continue to spread fear throughout the nation. Do you think that a necessity, such as banking, which is fundamental to daily life should be allowed to be taken away from people so easily? Because they are not affiliated with any type of immigration officers, I am surely not the only one questioning why Bank of America is getting involved with this process.
According to Susie Cagle of The Nation, “Bank of America explained that it was required to ask [about immigration status] to comply with Treasury regulations. It’s true that American financial institutions must monitor their accounts for signs of money laundering, and comply with the Office of Foreign Assets Control’s economic sanctions on several countries, including Iran, Cuba, and Syria.”
Being that Saeed is Iranian, an argument could be made for Bank of America constantly questioning his status in the country; however, to me, Saeed’s particular situation seems a bit outlandish. And, it is not an isolated incident. If you or someone you know has been subjected to a similar situation, and are looking to solidify your status here in the United States, you are encouraged to seek counsel from an experienced immigration attorney. Miami is definitely not immune to banks using immigration discrimination to freeze your assets (as you can see with Saeed). We offer immigration help to people in Miami, West Palm Beach, Orlando and Tampa.