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FARMERS BRANCH, Texas – As the July 31 deadline closes in for comments on two customer identification provisions in the USA Patriot Act, the Texas Credit Union League has voiced its support of leaving the rules as they are currently written. The two issues out for comment in the Treasury’s Notice of Inquiry Section 326 are: 1) whether financial institutions should have to retain photocopies of documents they rely on to verify customer identity; and 2) whether to permit institutions to rely on certain forms of government-issued identification, such as the matricula issued by U.S.-based Mexican consulates, to verify a member’s identity. In letters to the U.S. Treasury signed by Suzanne Yashewski, TCUL’s assistant general counsel, TCUL stated that retaining photocopies of identification documents would be “a significant administrative burden” and “duplicative, as [issuing] government agencies already retain copies.” TCUL noted other reasons for leaving the recordkeeping rule unchanged: many forms of identification have security features that prevent photocopying; unnecessary retention of photocopies could facilitate identity theft; and retaining photocopies could be viewed as discrimination. Concerning identification, the letters stated that individual credit unions should retain the right to independently decide whether or not to accept foreign consular IDs and that limiting services to individuals with only passports would inhibit credit unions’ basic goal of serving the underserved. “Denying [non-U.S. citizens] without passports the ability to open an account at a financial institution will not deter illegal immigrants from coming to the U.S.; it will only lead to higher crime when those individuals feel forced to stash money under their mattresses,” the letter stated. Current customer identification rules became effective June 9, 2003, although financial institutions have until Oct. 1, 2003 to comply. The rules require, at a minimum, that financial institutions implement reasonable procedures for: 1) verifying the identity of any person opening an account, to the extent reasonable and practicable; 2) maintaining records of the information used to verify the person’s identity, including name, address, and other identifying information; and 3) determining whether the person appears on any lists of known or suspected terrorists or terrorist organizations provided to the financial institution by any government agency. Growing acceptance of the Mexican matricula consular as identification for illegal immigrants living in the United States has undoubtedly facilitated credit unions’ ability to serve the unbanked. However, increasing concerns over possible fraud and misuse of the cards by terrorists and criminals have motivated the federal government to question whether current policies, as outlined in the USA Patriot Act, are stringent enough. An interagency task force headed by the Department of Homeland Security has been debating the issue for several months. The FBI last month became the first federal agency to publicly express concern that the matricula is not secure. Since then, members of the U.S. Justice Department and the House Judiciary Committee have also voiced opposition. “I understand the viewpoint of the FBI, but a credit union’s job is not the same as the IRS, the INS or the police department,” said Dick Ensweiler, TCUL president and CEO. “The credit union’s job is to reach out and serve people who need affordable financial services. We encourage credit unions to use the matricula to open accounts.” Currently 13 states, more than 80 cities and 900 police departments now accept the matricula. More than 1.4 million cards have been issued since 2002. In Texas, a foreign ID card can be used as identification, along with other supporting documents, to open an account at a financial institution or to obtain a driver’s license. Ensweiler believes acceptance of the matricula consular as ID in the United States will continue to be a hot legislative topic in upcoming months. “We could have a significant battle. Immigration into the United States is being looked at very closely now. In fact, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R) from Texas has introduced a bill, labeled the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act, that would limit the number of immigrants coming into this country,” the League President said. “Government officials may have some valid concerns,” says Harriet May, CEO of GECU, “but I’m confident we can work through them and continue to accept the matricula for people who need our services.” GECU, located in the U.S./Mexico border town of El Paso, began accepting matriculas about three years ago after law enforcement officials urged local financial institutions to help individuals get money out of their hip pockets and into a safe place, according to May. “We go through all the proper checks and verify IDs,” May continued. “The people we see are cashing one week’s paycheck for a very small amount, not depositing checks for $80,000. It’s hard to see them as terrorist threats.” [email protected]

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