Arizona Senators Seek Hearing About Banking Access On Border

By Jude Joffe-Block
February 11, 2015

Arizona’s two senators are asking for a senate hearing to examine access to banking services on the border. Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake are worried some regulatory efforts may be hindering legitimate border business.  

The United States-Mexico border is seen as high risk for money laundering because human and drug smuggling organizations are looking for ways to launder their profits. Banks are under increasing pressure to comply with federal regulations to prevent criminal activity.

But last month, Fronteras Desk and NPR reported some longtime businesses on the Arizona-Sonora border are losing their bank accounts as banks try to stay in line with anti-money laundering rules.

In that story, a spokeswoman for Chase Bank said the bank made a business decision to close fewer than 5,000 foreign small business accounts as it tries to stay in line with anti-money laundering regulations.  

Alicia Martin, the owner of La Roca restaurant in Nogales, Sonora, said Chase closed her restaurant’s business account in November after more than 40 years. 

“What happens to those of us who do business transparently, and it is honest business?” Martin said. “I don’t know. I feel like we are being punished for somebody else’s deeds.”

Flake and McCain cited that story in a Feb. 10 letter to the chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs asking for a hearing.

“[I]t is crucial for the economic vitality of businesses operating in border states to have access to capital and banking services through all avenues of banking—especially given the fact the Mexico is our third largest trade partner,” wrote the senators. 

“For this reason, we must do everything we can to balance valid security concerns along the border with unnecessary regulatory hurdles that impede adequate banking services along the southern border.”

The senators also wrote they are concerned that a number of banks have closed branches along the Arizona border in recent months.