LAS VEGAS –  A Latino civil rights organization is suing a Nevada credit union for its discriminatory policy of denying financial services to certain immigrants because of their status.

MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) and Kathia Quiros from GWP Immigration Law filed the federal lawsuit on Friday on behalf of Jorge Hernandez Castro, a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Hernandez, 29, was denied a $35,000 auto loan by One Nevada Credit Union because he does not have permanent residency, according to the complaint.  DACA allows immigrants brought to the United States as children and who meet certain requirements to obtain work authorization and protection against deportation.

“Unlawful and irrational discrimination diminishes the economic progress of our nation,” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel. “Credit unions cannot continue to serve their critical role in our economy if they discriminate against DACA recipients who seek to boost economic recovery through helpful and necessary investments, such as a vehicle.”

MALDEF attorneys argue that One Nevada’s denial of credit to Hernandez because of his immigration status violates Section 1981 of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1866, as amended, which prohibits discrimination based on alienage.  The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada.

Hernandez applied to One Nevada for an auto loan in mid-July 2022. At the time he applied, he was told that he had to be a Nevada resident and a member of the credit union to qualify for the loan. As proof of residency, Hernandez, who lives in Las Vegas, submitted his Nevada driver’s license as part of his application, but the loan was denied. Initially, Hernandez was told his application was denied because of his credit rating, which was 778 at the time of filing. According to the complaint, the application included a box labeled “other” that included a note that said, “We do not grant credit to any applicant on the terms and conditions you requested.”

Ten days later, Hernandez emailed a One Nevada representative to find out if his application was denied because of his citizenship eligibility.  The representative told Hernandez that he was not eligible for the loan because his Social Security Card was for “work purposes only” and because he was not a permanent lawful resident. According to One Nevada’s membership agreement, posted on its website, the credit union only grants membership to applicants with a “valid Social Security Number (SSN) or Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN).”  Under DACA, Hernandez’s Social Security Number is a valid Social Security Number.

“Despite having a high credit score and stable employment, One Nevada refused to extend credit to Hernandez premised on his ‘creditworthiness,’” said MALDEF attorney Luis Lozada. “However, the communications sent to Hernandez show that he was denied, not based on creditworthiness standards that are applied equally to U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents, but because of his work-only Social Security Number, which contradicts One Nevada’s posted policy and the laws of our nation.” ​

One Nevada is a member-owned credit union based in Las Vegas. It provides banking services, auto loans, mortgages, home equity loans, personal loans, and investment services.

This lawsuit is the seventh filed by MALDEF since 2017 challenging the policies of financial institutions that discriminate against DACA.

Read the complaint HERE.