The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) filed a lawsuit against Wells Fargo on Monday claiming that the bank illegally denied loans to applicants who are part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
DACA was created by an executive order signed by President Obama in 2012. It gives young immigrants who were brought here as small children and do not have legal status the opportunity to stay in the country, get Social Security numbers, obtain work permits, go to school and even apply for permission to leave and reenter the country.
DACA students are not eligible for federal financial aid.
One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit is Mitzie Perez, a third-year undergrad student at the University of California, Riverside. Perez is not a citizen or permanent resident, but she has a Social Security number and work permit, which she obtained through DACA.
Perez turned to Wells Fargo to apply for a loan in August of 2016. She filled out the student loan application on the Wells Fargo website and met their requirements for identification, but when she disclosed that she is not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, she was denied the loan. She went back to see what would happen if she changed her answer to “permanent resident alien” and got information about a student loan option as well as a note that read: “Based on the citizenship status you provided, a U.S. citizen cosigner will be required for this application.”
The lawsuit is seeking class-action status so it can include anyone in the United States since 2014 that was “denied the right to contract for a loan or other financial product by Wells Fargo because they were not U.S. citizens despite satisfying Wells Fargo’s Customer Identification Program (CIP) compliance.”
As for Wells Fargo, the fourth largest bank in the nation, they said in a statement that they are “disappointed” the plaintiffs prefer to sue “rather than work with us on solutions to help people realize their goals of higher education.”
This isn’t the first time Wells Fargo has come under fire. In 2015, the bank fired over 5,000 employees after discovering they were targeting Latino immigrants to create bogus accounts to meet target sales goals. And in December 2016, the city of Seattle introduced legislation to divest from Wells Fargo due to the bank’s investment in the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline; if successful, Seattle’s divestment will cost the bank $3 billion.