NEW YORK – A New York bank unlawfully denied a Harvard graduate who is authorized to work in the United States a job because of her immigration status, according to a federal lawsuit filed today.

MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) is challenging the hiring practices of New York-based M&T Bank Corporation on behalf of Ina Kodra who applied for a job as a branch manager through a management training program in January 2018.

Kodra, a 25-year-old Albanian woman authorized to work under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), was abruptly disqualified from consideration for employment by M&T once the bank learned she was a DACA recipient, the lawsuit states.

MALDEF attorneys argue that the bank violated the federal Civil Rights Act of 1866, which prohibits intentional discrimination based on alienage, according to the lawsuit.

“Federal authorization to work includes the right to be free from unlawful discrimination,” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel.  “The financial services sector must address the ongoing problem of anti-immigrant discrimination; we have had to sue too many financial institutions for the kind of unlawful hiring practice involved in this case.”

Kodra was in negotiations for a position with M&T when she received an email stating that she was not eligible for hire because candidates for the program she had applied to were required to have permanent work authorization, according to the lawsuit.

“MALDEF has historically protected the employment rights of the most vulnerable, we will fight to ensure that all DREAMERs who are legally authorized to work are able to do so, and put all employers on notice that discrimination will not be tolerated and we are prepared to fight,” said Griselda Vega Samuel, MALDEF Midwest regional counsel.

The lawsuit seeks class-action status on behalf of all non-citizens who were authorized to work in the United States, including other deferred action recipients and visa holders, who were unlawfully denied employment by M&T Bank after March 14, 2018 because of their immigration status.

“It’s unfortunate; I am authorized to work here but I am being treated as a second-class citizen. Equality is a sine qua non of American virtues and it's a shame when it is not afforded to all people,” said Kodra. “I worry about other immigrants who haven't been as lucky as I have, who have to endure similar discriminatory and insidious hiring practices in America.”​​

Since it was initiated in 2012, DACA has provided work authorization and protection from deportation to hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.

The lawsuit is the seventh filed by MALDEF since 2017 challenging employment policies that discriminate against DACA recipients. MALDEF has filed class-action lawsuits on behalf of DACA recipients who were denied employment in California, New Jersey, North Carolina and Florida.

Read the complaint HERE.