This week the cover of Business week is Embracing Illegals. The frame is about how businesses see the 11 million+ ‘illegal immigrants’ as a great market opportunity. To function economically in western capitalism you need identity documents to be part of the ‘representation system‘ that enables trusted value generation and exchange.
It dives into detail about how ‘undocumented immigrants’ get documents to basically function as normal US residents.
Guided by friends and family, the couple soon discovered how to navigate the increasingly above-ground world of illegal residency. At the local Mexican consulate, the Valenzuelas each signed up for an identification card known as a matrícula consular, for which more than half the applicants are undocumented immigrants, according to the Pew Hispanic center, a Washington think tank. Scores of financial institutions now accept it for bank accounts, credit cards, and car loans. Next, they applied to the Internal Revenue Service for individual tax identification numbers (ITINS), allowing them to pay taxes like any U.S. citizen — and thereby to eventually get a home mortgage.
The corporate Establishment’s new hunger for the undocumenteds’ business could have far-reaching implications for America’s stance on immigration policy, which remains unresolved. Corporations are helping, essentially, to bring a huge chunk of the underground economy into the mainstream.
The political implications are less clear-cut. Further integration of illegals into the U.S. could help President George W. Bush in his uphill struggle over the past two years to launch a guest worker program. His plan would provide a path to amnesty and full legalization for many unauthorized residents. Companies are taking a position similar to the President’s, in effect saying: There’s no point in pretending that millions of people aren’t here, so let’s find ways to deal with them.
It quickly became apparent. Largely via word of mouth in Hispanic neighborhoods, Wells Fargo has opened 525,000 matrícula accounts, which now represent 6% of the bank’s total. It opens 800 new accounts a day across the 23 states in which it does business.
The success of the matrícula has encouraged the expansion of other financial products, such as home mortgages, using the ITIN. Created for people such as foreigners with U.S. investments who aren’t eligible for a Social Security number but still may owe U.S. income taxes, the agency issued 900,000 ITINs last year and a total of 8 million since 1996. In Chicago, Second Federal Savings has 620 ITIN loans worth $90 million.
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