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Lack of Bank Account Puts Some Latinos in Danger

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DURHAM — Millions of Americans keep their money in banks. For most people, opening an account is often as simple as presenting a Social Security number, then choosing an account type, but not for the growing number of Latino immigrants moving to the United States.

Latinos work in many different areas in North Carolina, and are often employed as migrant workers and construction laborers. But when payday comes, some Latinos have no place to put the money they've worked so hard to earn. Some, because of the lack a Social Security number, find it hard to get a bank account. That forces many to keep large sums of money in unsafe places. One Hispanic man recently pulled out more than $500 at a grocery store -- an act that could invite trouble.

The consequences of not having a bank account can be deadly. In Durham, several several Latinos have been robbed or killed because criminals are aware that they often carry large sums of cash.

Angel Robles is the publisher of La Conexion, a Spanish language newspaper. He says many Hispanics have given up everything to come here and work, and that they should at least have access to a bank account.

Several banks are aware of these dangers, and some are allowing immigrants to get banking privileges by having them sign a certificate of foreign status or file for a tax-ID number. Many banks are hiring tellers who speak Spanish.

Lily Mathews speaks Spanish and works as a teller at NationsBank. Her branch manager, Dena Kennedy, says the customers she's reaching out to are employed and productive, so she's happy to help them

Kennedy says if a Latino worker is living here on a permanent basis, he or she will have to obtain a Social Security card as soon as possible.

There is debate around this issue. Some people say it's unfair for Latinos to have this privilege when American citizens must have a Social Security number to open an account.


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