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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Legal credit for illegal immigrants

    Bank of America announced last week it will expand a relatively new program to grant credit cards to customers who have entered the country illegally. And it’s about damn time.

    Last year, Bank of America began experimenting in Los Angeles by offering a credit program to its customers who, due to lack of a Social Security number (and, therefore, credit history), had not been able to access credit before.

    And because the majority of adults residing within the United States without Social Security cards are undocumented Hispanic immigrants, Bank of America’s program is causing quite a stir.

    Critics have immediately labeled Bank of America’s program as unethical, illegal or both. In fact, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Ira Mehlman, speaking for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, likened providing credit to illegal immigrants as “”actually aiding and abetting people who broke the law.””

    Legally, I think he’s right. I’m no lawyer, but I do believe if one person commits a crime and a second person assists him, that person has “”aided and abetted.””

    But the logical implications of such thinking are, frankly, ridiculous. So once a person has crossed the border illegally, he becomes a fugitive from the law. Every action following the first illegal one (other than walking up to the police station and turning himself in) amounts to hiding or fleeing from the authorities.

    So not just the banker is guilty of providing “”aid”” to the illegal immigrant by lending him money or facilitating the lending of money, but so is the grocer for providing food, and the landlord for providing shelter.

    The immediate response may be that grocers and landlords aren’t responsible for checking to make sure their customers are in this country legally. Probably right. But then again, neither are bankers. Neither Wells Fargo Bank nor Bank of America requires that you provide proof of citizenship to deal with them.

    So the result is that society is divided into three groups: illegal immigrants, the state and federal forces responsible for rounding them up, and the rest of us, who, by remaining rationally ignorant of the citizenship status of every individual we deal with, aid and abet fugitives from the law.

    That leaves two solutions. The first is to mandate that all inhabitants of this country must always carry proof of citizenship on their person, so as to free from guilt anyone they have occasion to trade with.

    But that would simply be inefficient. Think about how long it takes the old woman in front of you at Fry’s to enter her VIP card. Now imagine her trying to prove her citizenship as well.

    The second and better solution is to end this ridiculous notion of “”illegal”” immigrants. The world is an exponentially more productive place when the free trade of goods is unencumbered by borders. Why shouldn’t we expect to see the same kind of global benefits arise from the free trade of human capital as well?

    Let people enter and exit the country as they please, screen them on their way in to make sure they aren’t terrorists and then let them take their shot at fulfilling the “”American Dream.”” Between being a terrorist and being an “”American Dream”” seeker, strict immigration laws and the resulting waves of undocumented residents only truly inhibit the latter.

    It seems like being a terrorist would be cake if I didn’t officially exist. Getting a loan so I could buy a house? Not quite so easy.

    For banks to provide credit to illegal immigrants isn’t an act of treason. It is, rather, illustrative of a general sentiment that it seems more Americans have toward immigrants: We don’t care whether you’re legal or illegal; we just care that you work hard, save money and pay your debts. After all, that’s why our ancestors came here in the first place.

    Bank of America’s credit program for illegal immigrants should be admired. It complies with Homeland Security requirements, profits the bank and provides people an opportunity to borrow and build what they otherwise would not have had access to.

    But above all, it foreshadows the inevitable fulfillment of a concept of liberty that is centuries old – the freedom of human mobility.

    Stan Molever is a philosophy senior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu

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