- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 24, 2007

Last week, a businessman was sentenced to 4 years in prison for aiding and abetting a Hollywood, Calif., private detective in an illegal wiretapping scheme.

In Iowa, the girlfriend and brother of a drug kingpin were convicted of aiding and abetting the kingpin’s flight to Mexico during his trial. And in Henderson, N.C., police have charged a 78-year-old man for aiding and abetting the possession of cocaine as part of a sting operation. Aiding and abetting is clearly a crime.

Yet, intentionally or not, when Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and a few other banks aid and abet, at best, illegal immigration and, at worst, money laundering, drug running and terrorism, the federal government turns a blind eye.

Wells Fargo was even cited by the Treasury Department last year for “numerous and recurring deficiencies” in safeguarding against money laundering and terrorist activities. The violations were so egregious that Treasury Department staff recommended a public reprimand. Top officials, however, decided to slap Wells Fargo’s wrist quietly and behind closed doors.

That’s not surprising, considering the Treasury Department is also complicit in rules that aid and abet illegal, and potentially terrorist, activities.

That’s why Bank of America could announce a program recently to issue credit cards to people in the United States who lack Social Security cards without fear of federal reprisal. They could openly claim, as a bank spokeswoman did, that the program is not aimed at illegal immigrants but rather to aid people without solid credit histories.

That might satisfy Washington bureaucrats, but to clear-thinking Americans that lie is not even thinly veiled. Social Security numbers have nothing to do with credit.

In fact, the Social Security Administration recommends that parents apply for a Social Security number as soon as their child is born. A 1-day-old child does not have a stellar credit history. Neither do many teens and adults starting their first job, who nonetheless must have a Social Security to legally work in the United States.

In fact, there probably are millions of Americans without stellar credit histories who carry a Social Security card — because they have a legal right to live and work here.

The Bank of America program is clearly targeted at illegal immigrants. And that’s a problem because it creates another incentive for people to illegally enter our country and stay. It’s a problem because it aids and abets identity theft and money laundering. It’s a problem because terrorists need money to operate within our borders. It’s a problem because greed is undermining responsibility, and that undermines capitalism — the bedrock of America’s economy.

One form of identification Bank of America accepts is a consular card issued by foreign governments from their consulates in the United States.

Consular cards were not designed to be identification, and no treaty recognizes them as such. Legal travelers, visitors and long-term residents carry passports, visas or green cards for that purpose. Consular cards are simply a contact card, such as a child might carry so his or her parents can be contacted in an emergency.

Only a handful were issued each year before 2001, when terrorists attacked New York City and Washington, D.C. That same year, Wells Fargo began accepting them to open bank accounts. Since 2002, Mexico alone has issued more than 4 million to its nationals in the United States.

Consular offices make no attempt to determine whether the person obtaining the card is legally in the United States. In fact, the only people who need these cards are illegal immigrants, criminals and terrorists. Consular cards also are easily forged.

But some banks accept them to allow people illegally in the country to make financial transactions of any amount with the full support of the Treasury Department, despite directives from Congress to end the practice.

Even if drug smuggling or terrorism did not exist, policies by Bank of America, Wells Fargo and a few other financial institutions still violate America’s interests. Every unskilled illegal immigrant who enters the United States for work takes a job away from an unskilled American or, at the very least, drives down the wages for unskilled workers. Illegal immigration’s downward pressure on wages is why even Cesar Chavez opposed illegal immigration.

Every unskilled illegal immigrant who enters the United States for work drives up health-care costs for every American. And, every illegal immigrant we turn a blind eye toward weakens the rule of law upon which our country was founded.

We are a nation of immigrants, but we are also a nation of laws. The policies of Bank of America and Wells Fargo aid and abet lawlessness, and lawlessness should not be tolerated in the United States — not from nationals of other countries nor from U.S. bank officials.

Personally, I will not do business with banks that aid and abet illegal activities.

Elton Gallegly, California Republican, is a senior member of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee and chairman of the 1995 Congressional Task Force on Immigration Reform. He has introduced 11 bills this year targeting illegal immigration.

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