Bank Of America Is Apparently Freezing Accounts Of Non-U.S. Citizens

by Cassandra Stone
Image via Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Bank of America is facing major backlash for profiling suspected non-U.S. citizens and cutting them off

Earlier this week, we learned that lifelong United States citizens of Hispanic descent are being denied passports along the U.S.-Mexico border. If that wasn’t bad enough, news is emerging about Bank of America freezing the accounts of suspected non-U.S. citizens.

There is absolutely nothing right about this.

Saeed Moshfegh is a Ph.D student from Iran who has been living and studying in the United States for the past seven years.

Saeed Moshfegh is Iranian but has been living in the U.S. for the past seven years, and is currently studying for his Ph.D in physics at the University of Miami. He says he was denied access to his account after his local branch of Bank of America refused to accept documentation that demonstrates his status as a student. “This bank doesn’t know how the immigration system works, so they didn’t accept my document,” Moshfegh tells the Miami Herald.

In another similar case, Dan Hernandez, a television writer of Cuban heritage, says the bank suspended his business account in December 2016 over suspicion he was doing business with Cuba. He says the issue was resolved, but only after he sent a tweet to the bank’s social media account. “It was extremely scary,” Hernandez tells the Herald. “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.”

These are just two cases of many. Beyond the obvious profiling occurring here, which is horrifying enough on its own, freezing someone’s bank account can seriously screw up their finances — Moshfegh was unable to pay rent, which was due the week he was locked out of his account, and credit card payments were denied.

If you’re not a wealthy person with zero money worries — and plenty of students are not — being unable to pay your bills or, oh, I don’t know, live without money (even temporarily) can cause financial problems for months and months down the line. This whole thing is outrageous.

As for Bank of America, they say in a statement to HuffPost that the bank asks account holders about their country of citizenship in order to comply with country-specific sanctions and routinely conducts outreach to ensure information is up to date.

Uh-huh. Which is such bullshit, because you absolutely do not need to be a U.S. citizen to open a bank account. That is not a thing. The heightened vitriol against immigrants under the Trump administration appears to be trickling down from the giant spray tan stain in the Oval Office into many major facets of American life.

It’s terrifying and beyond appalling.

Moshfegh says after multiple conversations with Bank of America, he was able to withdraw all of his funds. But he wasn’t allowed to keep the account. “It’s not the business of Bank of America to shut down someone’s account,” he says. “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.”