Desert Schools FCU Designs Account To Help Immigrants Have A Safe Place To Keep Money

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PHOENIX - The largest credit union in Arizona is trying to send a message to immigrants: their money would be safer in a CU than cash stuffed in a mattress.

Desert Schools Federal Credit Union will allow immigrants who have an unexpired Matricula Consular Identification Card issued after June 2002 to open an account, Emma Garcia, director of community development for the credit union, told the Credit Union Journal.

She said the account does not pay dividends or interest, unless the person signs an IRS form declaring he or she is a foreign status individual.

"We want to get the word out we offer an option for people," she said. "It is for anyone who does not have a Social Security number."

The Matricula Consular is an official identification card issued by the Mexican government through its consulate offices in the U.S., the CU said.

Garcia said Desert Schools is not concerned about wading into the hot-button issue of illegal immigration. She said the CU has a long history of working with non-profits and community outreach groups and "we feel it is an important service to offer to the community.

"There will be some groups with strong opinions, but if there are fewer individuals with large amounts of cash, there will be less crime in the community. It is important for people to have money in a secure location."

Desert Schools has offered the savings account for people without U.S. identification for a couple of years, Garcia said, but recently has been taking steps to promote it. She said the CU has visited schools and non-profits, providing information on available options.

"We recognize many individuals in the community are in a state of fear with everything going on. We let them know this is a safe place for them to keep their money, and we're not going to side with Immigration."

Desert Schools has $2.7 billion in assets and serves its 325,000 members in 60 locations. (c) 2007 The Credit Union Journal and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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