Bank of America freezing accounts of suspected undocumented immigrants: report
© Getty

Bank of America is facing scrutiny amid reports they have been freezing the bank accounts of customers suspected of not being legal U.S. citizens.

The Miami Herald on Thursday published a report featuring numerous profiles from Bank of America customers who have alleged the bank either froze or threatened to freeze their accounts due to citizenship questions.

ADVERTISEMENT

Saeed Moshfegh, an Iranian doctoral student at the University of Miami, told the Herald he was denied access to his bank account after his local branch told him it could not accept the documentation that showed his current status as a student. 

“This bank doesn’t know how the immigration system works, so they didn’t accept my document,” the 36-year-old told the Herald.

“It’s not the business of Bank of America to shut down someone’s account,” he added. “Immigration officers are different from Bank of America — with a bank, I would like to feel respect ... [and be treated] how they treat other customers. But they treat me as an alien.”

Dan Hernandez, a TV writer of Cuban heritage based in Los Angeles, told the Herald the bank suspended his business account in December 2016 under suspicion he had been doing business with Cuba — his corporation was called Cuban Missile Inc. and was named after a nickname he had as a child. 

“I started screaming that this was racist,” Hernandez told the Herald. “Like, did you go through every company that had ’Jewish bagels’ in its name, or how about calling someone with ‘Korean BBQ’ to see if they’re doing business with Kim Jong Un?”

The writer said the situation was resolved after he tweeted at the bank’s social media account.

“It was extremely scary,” he said. “I knew I didn’t do anything wrong, but it puts doubt in your mind. A bank can crush your life for arbitrary reasons and never tell you why.” 

In a similar case reported by The Kansas City Star in July, Josh Collins alleged Bank of America froze his account after he received a letter from the bank inquiring about his citizenship status. Collins said he assumed the letter was spam and ignored it until his account was frozen shortly after.

The bank said in a statement obtained by the paper that it “may periodically request information, such as country of citizenship and proof of U.S. residency.”

Carla Molina, a spokesperson for Bank of America, told the Herald that while she was unable to comment on specific cases, there have not been any changes in the past decade as to how the bank collects information from its customers, adding that it is standard for the bank to make an attempt to contact its customers before changing the status of their bank accounts.

Molina also found said the new complaints from customers in recent months could be in response to heightened sensitivities over the immigration debate in the U.S.