A Latino civil rights organization filed a class-action lawsuit last week against a Central California credit union for unlawfully denying a loan to a DACA recipient on the basis of her immigration status instead of her credit-worthiness.

MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) filed the suit on behalf of Noemi Peraza Lopez, a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and a member of Fresno-based Noble Credit Union.  Peraza’s request for a car loan was initially approved, but approval was rescinded by Noble because of her immigration status, according to the suit filed in California superior court.

“By design, credit unions are supposed to provide more accessible financial products to their members,” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel.  “Anti-immigrant bias and unlawful discrimination are antithetical to the mission of any credit union.”

The suit challenges Noble’s denial of an auto loan to Peraza because she is not a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident as a violation of California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act. The Unruh Act prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, citizenship, immigration status, age and other characteristics.

“Even though Peraza has been a member of Noble for many years, Noble decided to deny her an auto loan,” said Luis Lozada, a staff attorney with MALDEF.  “This denial demonstrates that Noble picks and chooses who receives credit on arbitrary grounds.”​

Peraza, 28, of Fresno, applied for a $35,000 auto loan in July 2023; her father served as a co-signer for the loan. On the day she applied, Peraza was told by a representative that her application was approved, according to the lawsuit.

On July 19, Noble sent Peraza an adverse action letter, informing them that the loan was being denied because her driver’s license states that it is for “limited-term.” In California, immigrants who are legally present, such as DACA recipients, can apply for and receive driver's licenses for a limited term.  Noble refused Peraza an auto loan because of her immigration status based on her limited-term driver's license, attorneys say.

Peraza emailed and complained to a different representative that the loan had been approved and inquired why it had been rescinded without explanation despite Peraza already being a member of the credit union.

On September 7, Noble sent a letter to Peraza explaining that Noble was “unable to offer you credit on the terms that you requested” and stated that “[Noble does] not grant credit to any applicants on the terms and conditions you requested.”

“I was treated unjustly, and discriminated against,” said Peraza. “It’s 2024, and we (DACA recipients) are still getting treated unfairly. We help with the economy, yet are still denied opportunities for growth. When will it end?”

Noble Credit Union is a member-owned credit union that serves the Central Valley of California. Noble offers consumers a range of financial and credit products, including consumer banking services, loans, credit cards, and retirement and investment products.

This lawsuit is the 10th filed by MALDEF since 2017 challenging the policies of financial institutions that discriminate against DACA recipients.

Read the complaint HERE.