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DURHAM, N.C. – Latino Community Credit Union, the award-winning $14 million CU headquartered in Durham, North Carolina, has lost the first round in a legal fight with North Carolina’s Division of Motor Vehicles over the so-called Matricula Consular cards. The credit union’s leadership is now considering whether to pursue its fight on appeal. A North Carolina Superior Court Judge denied the credit union and its sponsoring organization, the Latino Community Development’s petition for a stay of the DMV’s latest ruling which held that matricula cards may no longer be used as identification when obtaining a driver’s license. The ruling allowed the new requirements to go into effect on February 2. Matricula cards are issued by primarily Mexican consulates to their nationals who may be living and working in the U.S. without legal documents, although the consulates of other Central and South American countries have begun looking into the cards and, in some cases, have begun to issue them. Immigrants in the U.S. illegally have been able to use the cards to fulfill identification requirements when opening bank accounts, obtaining driver’s licenses and taking care of other routine paperwork. Immigration reform advocates have campaigned against the cards, arguing that their growing acceptance effectively undermines U.S. immigration law. Matricula supporters, including banks and credit unions, have countered that the cards enable more people to have banking relationships which, in turn, allows them to live more safely than they often do otherwise. The role of the Matricula in getting North Carolina driver’s licenses is the latest battleground for the controversial cards. Contending that there was too much risk of document fraud in its licensing process, the DMV began declining to accept the Matricula on February 2 and requiring that foreign passports presented as identification have valid stamps from U.S. immigration authorities. The topic may have come to a head now because it has become something of a political issue, according to North Carolina press reports, which pits Governor Mike Easley, a Democrat, against state Republicans who have criticized the previous policy. Two primarily Latino institutions took on the fight on behalf of their members, explained Randy Chambers, treasurer for the credit union. “We have a member equity issue in this,” explained Chambers. “Many of our members come from the ranks of the population that is liable to be most deeply affected by this move,” he said. Chambers explained that the two Latino organizations had not opposed the change in policy in itself but had sought to have the DMV follow the rulemaking process that, they contended, all parts of the state government have been required to follow for years. “The DMV short-circuited the State’s thoughtful rule-making procedure,” argued Al McSurely, one of the attorneys in the case for Latino. “State agencies are required to give notice of such changes, through the Codifier of the Rules, and interested parties such as the two groups bringing this action would then have the right to comment and provide their expertise to the rule making process.” Chambers explained that this part of the question had particularly drawn Latino’s interest. “As a regulated, state chartered agency we have a natural interest in the rule-making process and in making sure that it is not undermined in any way,” Chambers said, noting that if the State’s rule-making regulations could be abrogated in one area, so too could the state abrogate them in another. Chambers also pointed out that, as an auto lender with a primarily Hispanic customer base, the credit union had an interest in making sure that as many of its members as possible have the ability to buy, drive and insure cars. Chambers could not identify how many of Latino’s members used the Matricula to establish their credit union accounts, but reported that their percentage among the credit union’s 15,000 was fairly small, ranging to 10% or less. [email protected]

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