PHOENIX – A Latino civil rights organization filed a federal class-action lawsuit Wednesday against a Texas auto-loan aggregator for unlawfully denying service to a recipient of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) based on immigration status.

MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) and Arizona attorney Daniel Ortega of Ortega Law Firm filed the suit on behalf of Deyra Pamela Carranza Aguilar of Phoenix. The lawsuit challenges Tresl Auto Finance’s discriminatory policy that prevented Aguilar from applying for a car loan, in violation of federal civil rights law.

“Access to fair lending is an essential element of participation in the modern economy,” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel.  “Irrational discrimination deals a significant harm then to those targeted, and also introduces damaging inefficiency into the national economy.”

Aguilar, 26, applied to Tresl to refinance a $17,000 car loan on March 1, 2022. Tresl, a registered trademark of Innovative Funding Services in Austin, Texas, isn’t a direct lender. Instead, it partners with lenders to provide auto loan refinancing. Tresl helps match individuals seeking to refinance auto loans with lenders in their network. Tresl, however, prevented Aguilar from applying for a loan based on her immigration status, and without considering her creditworthiness, the lawsuit states.

After Aguilar applied online, a Tresl representative contacted her for more information and documents, including her driver’s license and proof of insurance. In a follow-up phone call, Aguilar told the representative that her DACA work permit required renewal every two years. At that point, the representative said she would need to check with “the lender” before continuing to take her application. Minutes later, Aquilar received a text message from the Tresl representative telling her that a manager told her not to finish Aguilar’s application because lenders would not approve a loan for longer than her work permit expiration and that lenders saw DACA recipients as unreliable and a liability.

“Unfortunately, financial service providers continue to discriminate against DACA recipients,” said Eduardo Casas, a staff attorney with MALDEF.  “Rather than focus on creditworthiness, some providers assume they can deny an individual access to products based on their immigration status. That’s wrong, it’s dehumanizing, and it’s unlawful.”​

Attorneys argue that Tresl’s refusal to take a loan application from Aguilar because of her immigration status violates Section 1981 of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1866, which prohibits discrimination in contracting based on race, color, ethnicity, or alienage.​

“It was disheartening to hear that I had not been chosen to proceed forward in the application process,” Aguilar said.  “The only thing I was judged upon is the one thing that is forever beyond my control; to not look beyond the label of DACA, a decision that was made for me as a child, will forever hold me back as an adult.”

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court, District of Arizona.  Attorneys are requesting that the court certify the lawsuit as a class-action.

This is the 11th lawsuit filed by MALDEF since 2017 challenging the policies of financial institutions that discriminate against DACA recipients.

Read the complaint HERE.