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Dreamers Ask To Proceed As Class In Wells Fargo Bias Suit

Nov 4, 2019 / News Item / Law360 — Suzanne Monyak

A group of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients have asked a California federal court to let them move forward as a class with their claims that Wells Fargo’s lending policies discriminate against immigrants. 

The DACA recipients — young immigrants without legal status who were brought to the U.S. as kids and who are protected from deportation under an Obama-era program — asked U.S. District Judge Maxine M. Chesney on Friday to approve three proposed classes of DACA recipients who they say have been or will be automatically denied student loans, credit cards and other personal and small business loans by Wells Fargo because of their immigration status.

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They also asked to certify two subclasses of DACA recipients living in California who were denied loans they had applied for at Wells Fargo, citing a California state civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on immigration status. DACA, established in 2012, has provided work authorization and deportation relief to around 800,000 young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

The DACA recipients, some of whom say they have been forced to borrow money from sources with higher interest rates, said it would make more sense to continue as a class action because there are too many DACA recipients who have been affected by Wells Fargo’s lending practices to litigate each claim individually.

According to their court filing, hundreds of people have been denied student and small business loans from Wells Fargo while thousands were denied unsecured credit cards and personal loans because of the bank’s citizenship and immigration requirements. Other major banks, including Chase and Barclays, do allow immigrants without green cards to take out unsecured credit, the lawsuit says.

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Michael N. Litrownik of Outten & Golden LLP told Law360 that Wells Fargo is the largest bank that makes DACA recipients ineligible for unsecured loans as a matter of policy. That policy is “incredibly destructive” to Dreamers' ability to "live and thrive" in the U.S., he said. 

“This is an incredibly important issue for DACA recipients who have lived in the U.S. since they were children and have gone to school — high school, college — and are starting their lives," Litrownik said. 

The lawsuit was filed in January 2017 by attorneys with Outten & Golden LLP and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund on behalf of Mitzie Perez, a DACA recipient who was, at the time, a junior studying gender studies at the University of California, Riverside.

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Outten & Golden is currently pursuing a second lawsuit against Wells Fargo over the bank's policy to deny auto loans to DACA recipients, after that issue was trimmed from this suit. 

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The proposed class is represented by Ossai Miazad, Michael N. Litrownik, Elizabeth V. Stork, Jahan C. Sagafi, Relic Sun, Rachel Dempsey, Patrick David Lopez and Daniel S. Stromberg of Outten & Golden LLP and Thomas Saenz, Belinda Escobosa Helzer and Joel Marrero of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

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