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Thursday, October 06, 2005

What You Don't Know Is Crucial

Newsday/AP published this report about an initiative in New Haven, CT:
Mayor John DeStefano Jr. is suggesting that the city provide legal identification cards to illegal immigrants as part of a program to make city and other services more accessible.

DeStefano said Monday he wants to give illegal immigrants a legitimate form of ID so they can open bank accounts, prove their identity to police and access social services.
In addition to the identification cards, the city is also urging local banks to allow immigrants to open accounts without required Social Security numbers.
First, the REAL ID act won't allow illegals to use these documents to get federal services. Second, every bank is required by the Feds to identify their customers, and doing what the city officials want them to do is going to get these banks in trouble with the federal regulators. Big trouble, potentially. Social Security numbers aren't required to open an account unless you are a US citizen. So what is really going on here is that the city is trying to pressure banks to open accounts for illegal immigrants without verifying their identity.

When you open accounts for people who are undocumented, you open an avenue for money laundering and terrorism funding. Therefore the rules were tightened considerably after 9/11, and banks are required to identify their customers. So if the city starts handing out IDs to people whom it does not know, that does nothing at all to relieve banks of their duty to verify a customer's identity. Furthermore, it is likely that the regulators would view these as potential high risk accounts for the purposes of a bank's AML/BSA (Anti Money Laundering) program, and require special monitoring for these accounts. All of the burden is placed upon the bank to comply with AML rules, and banks have recently been fined millions of dollars for not meeting the responsibility. I would not advise any bank to accept such identification.

Some banks do accept a matricular consular (an identity document issued by a foreign government), and all banks accept visas plus a passport. Many banks will accept a US Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) and foreign identity documents, but the rules for obtaining an ITIN were tightened considerably a few years ago. Now an applicant has to submit a tax return along with a W-7 to get one, so these illegal aliens will not have ITINs unless they got one under the old rules.

But to accept a city-issued identity document without an ITIN leaves the bank swinging in the breeze, because what's to stop US criminals, tax evaders and money launderers from sending in people to obtain one (or, in the case of a criminal, obtaining one) and then laundering and/or hiding money through these accounts? It's an obvious risk, and a large one. But if the city wants to do this, it will probably threaten to stop doing business with banks who don't comply. City accounts are a large source of revenue for banks, so this will be a significant amount of pressure.

The bitter truth is that already US citizens are required to jump through more hoops to establish their identity than illegal aliens. You have no financial privacy any more, because banks are entirely responsible under law for the uses to which these accounts may be put. Believe me, unless your bank is quite reckless it already reviews your account for suspicious transactions and reports any it finds to federal regulators. I can't imagine how I could justify using this form of ID without an ITIN to the feds, and I wouldn't even want to try.

What purpose do all of these regulations even have? Under current circumstances, all of this is nothing but a burden and an invasion of privacy to a US citizen. Neither a large underground cash economy or handing out bank accounts to unidentified people who cannot appeal to the police makes you more secure. Without somehow legalizing these workers, the US remains incredibly vulnerable and cannot stop terrorist funding, because it cannot stop undocumented cash flows. Billions of dollars are wired out of the country each week, primarily to Mexico, which does not have the same controls. Then the money is moved around through companies. These people are certainly being exploited to move money; they are utterly vulnerable to pressure.

You don't know all of this because no news organization bothers to try to explain it to you. You don't know why it is important to control illegal immigration and to legalize in some fashion the workers who are here. This situation gets more insane every year; US policy simply does not make sense. It endangers both these workers and you, and it is a political football because not one US voter in a thousand understands the situation.

An easy-to-read format of the final regs issued to implement the portion of the US Patriot Act requiring identification of customers can be found here (pdf):
The CIP must include risk-based procedures for verifying the identity of each customer to the extent reasonable and practicable. The procedures must enable the bank to form a reasonable belief that it knows the true identity of each customer. These procedures must be based on the bank’s assessment of the relevant risks, including those presented by the various types of accounts maintained by the bank, the various methods of opening accounts provided by the bank, the various types of identifying information available, and the bank’s size,
location, and customer base. At a minimum, these procedures must contain the elements described in this paragraph (b)(2).
(i) Customer information required. (A) In general. The CIP must contain procedures for opening an account that specify the identifying information that will be obtained from each customer. Except as permitted by paragraphs (b)(2)(i)(B) and (C) of this section, the bank must obtain, at a minimum, the following information from the
customer prior to opening an account:
(1) Name;
(2) Date of birth, for an individual;
(3) Address, which shall be:
(i) For an individual, a residential or business street address;
(ii) For an individual who does not have a residential or business street address,
an Army Post Office (APO) or Fleet Post Office (FPO) box number, or the residential or
business street address of next of kin or of another contact individual; or
(iii) For a person other than an individual (such as a corporation, partnership, or
trust), a principal place of business, local office, or other physical location; and
(4) Identification number, which shall be:
(i) For a U.S. person, a taxpayer identification number; or
(ii) For a non-U.S. person, one or more of the following: a taxpayer identification number; passport number and country of issuance; alien identification card number; or number and country of issuance of any other government-issued document evidencing nationality or residence and bearing a photograph or similar safeguard.
The bolded portion is the loophole they are attempting to use.

Follow the money.

Banks are making loans and mortgages to illegals- and those loans are being paid back, so the banks make money.

The other issue is driving permits.

If you don't issue DL, there are legions of uninsured drivers on the roads. If they are issued DL, they will get insurance. Uninsured drives in the system cost us a fortune.

Like it or not, we are going to have illegals. Our agricultural sysytem would implode without them, for example- and there are millions of other service jobs that would unfilled if it weren't for illegals.

Nothing you don't already know.
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