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DUBLIN, Ohio – The controversy over matricula ID cards shows no signs of letting up, and in Ohio the issue has taken on new interest. Historically, the identification form, also called matricula consular, was issued by foreign governments to enable their citizens abroad to seek consular assistance when they needed help. More recently, the cards are issued as a way to provide identification for people in the United States. The government of Mexico, in particular, has promoted the card. Other nations, such as Guatemala, are either issuing similar cards or considering it. Those who support accepting the cards say they allow foreigners working in the U.S. to open financial accounts and thus carry less cash, making them less likely to be victims of crime; provide foreigners a way to access opportunities, including credit union membership; and make it easier for them to function in U.S. society by allowing them to acquire library cards, enter federal buildings, purchase basic utilities, gain access to rental housing and more. The U.S. Treasury, through the USA Patriot Act, allows credit unions to accept identification issued by other governments. On the other hand, critics say the card acts as a way of legitimizing people who are in the country illegally, are being misused and are a danger to national security. The Office of Intelligence of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in a report said the Department of Justice and FBI have concluded that the matricula consular is not a reliable form of identification, that it is vulnerable to fraud and forgery and poses criminal and terrorist threats. In May, Colorado adopted a law that prohibits immigrants from using identity cards issued by foreign governments as official documents in that state. In September, the Ohio Credit Union League sponsored an education program, inviting representatives from the Mexican Consulate as well as several Ohio credit unions. According to Sue Helmreich, OCUL manager of outreach projects, “The league is taking accepting the matricula ID cards as a good thing, but every credit union is self governed. It’s up to them to make their own decisions.” Helmreich said the cards allow Mexican nationals to open accounts to transfer money back home. “From our standpoint, it has nothing to do with the Immigration and Naturalization Service. When we offer our financial education classes in Spanish, we don’t ask and we don’t care. It is safer for them to have an account than to carry money on their person. A lot more banks are accepting the matricula card. We would like credit unions to become better informed. The bottom line is it’s the right thing to do and the smart thing to do. A large percentage of Mexican people will be working here and staying here and their kids will be living here. Soon, those kids will be buying cars and they will be buying homes. It has to start somewhere.” Helmreich said that of 1,048 financial institutions and their branches in Ohio that accept the matricula ID, there are only a couple of credit unions. One is Western Credit Union in Columbus. Tom Furry, president and CEO, said Western has accepted the matricula ID for more than a year and has not had any problems with security. “We found that the folks presenting the cards are genuinely interested in receiving the services of the credit union. We have found it to be an acceptable means of ID to establish a relationship.” He noted that there’s concern about all forms of ID, not just the matricula ID card. Among credit unions that attended the OCUL session, several are taking up the issue while others have it on the back burner. At AurGroup Financial in Fairfield, Tim Boellner, president and CEO, said he was taking a policy recommendation to his board to accept matricula IDs. “We have a growing Hispanic population. Accepting the ID fits in with our strategic plan – to make membership available to those who want it and to serve the underserved.” At BMI Federal Credit Union in Columbus, Sharon Custer, CEO and president, said that “we haven’t made any changes in any of our policies yet. We will be looking at it as part of an overall ID program, but it’s not a pressing issue.” Jeff Swartz, president and CEO at Core One, said the board for that Columbus-based cooperative has not yet discussed the issue. The credit union was just approved to include a new geographic area and the topic may be part of strategic plan meetings. At New Horizons in Cincinnati, Leroy Wilder, CEO and president, said he had some concerns about the apparently easy availability of the documents. “I’m not opposed to helping people and there is business to be done. But we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place with this Patriot Act. Some government agencies tell you they accept the ID and others, such as the U.S. Postal Service, tell you they do not.” He said he finds it interesting that all the card shows is that the Mexican consulate believes the person is a Mexican citizen and includes nothing about whether the person is here legally or illegally. “One thing that concerns me, and I will have to talk with our insurance company about it, is that they say that many people send their account and ATM cards home to Mexico so that their families can access their accounts. I’m concerned that that possibly opens us to exposures for possible losses. If cards and PINs are sent out of the country and they get lifted out of the mail or otherwise abused, what’s our exposure? Once I can get answers to some questions, I will present it to the board,” said Wider.

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