Arab-American Group Asks Government to Intervene in Bank Account Closures

The Arab-American Civil Rights League says banks in southeastern Michigan are engaging in racial profiling by closing client accounts.

A Dearborn-based Arab-American advocacy group is asking the federal government to investigate banks in southeastern Michigan for closing accounts of community members.

The Arab-American Civil Rights League said it sent a letter to the U.S. Attorney General's Office on March 18 after learning of more than a dozen closures in the past month.

"Over the past several weeks the ACRL has received an unprecedented number of complaints from community members who have had their bank accounts closed, for no apparent reason, by their banking institutions," Rana Abbas, executive director of the ACRL said. "Most of these complaints are from successful professionals or business owners, who have banked with the same institution for years."

Abbas said other than a letter informing a customer of the bank’s decision to close the account, individuals have received no further notice, or explanation of the decision.

"While such practices are not unfamiliar to the Arab American community, based on the overwhelming number of complaints that have come through the ACRL in recent months, it is apparent that a concerted effort is now being made to close the accounts of individuals who fit a certain profile," Abbas said.

Nabih Ayad, chairman of the ACRL, said a complaint has been filed on behalf of customers who bank at Huntington National Bank, Chase, Flagstar, Comerica, and other major financial institutions in southeastern Michigan.

"How would you feel if you were told to go to hell by your banking institution after several years? It's embarrassing, and it's dehumanizing. We're requesting accountability," he said.

Dearborn resident Jaafar Elrez, who operates Jena Sound Stage & Lighting, Inc., said he received an account closure notice from Flagstar Bank on Feb. 4.

According to Elrez, the bank told him it was closing his personal account, his business account, and the accounts of his 7- and 8-year-old children after he received money from his family in Lebanon planning to move to the United States.

"When I called the vice president of the bank, she told me she felt suspicious of the money transfer and told me she can close any account she wants," Elrez said.

Resident Nazih Jawad, a local pharmacist, said he received a similiar notice from Flagstar Bank.

"It is unacceptable that a U.S. citizen does not have the right to bank where they choose, or to be forced out of a 'reputable' financial institution for no given reason and without any provocation," Ayad said.

Abbas said since the Bank Security Act (BSA) went into effect in 2001, Arab Americans have been increasingly targeted with account closures. The act requires financial institutions to monitor and report certain transactions to the FBI.

"Banks are misinformed and they are using their discretion to close accounts as a preemptive strike. If they are in doubt, they shut it down," he said.

The Arab-American Civil Rights League has established a community hotline to help residents affected by bank account closures.

"This is just not an isolated problem. We believe it is happening to hundreds if not thousands of Arab Americans," Ayad said.

For more information, call 1-313-633-0890.

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SwissPinoy March 21, 2013 at 07:11 PM
bitsy08, It doesn't matter if one writes Israel or Lebanon. The people of both nations have the same right to be treated equally. Are you suggesting that that the hatred of Semites may be honored as long as it involves one nation rather than another? English won't help a Hebrew teacher to teach Hebrew. If one wants to teach Hebrew, then learn Hebrew, not English. As for getting kicked out of banks, national origin discrimination is a federal crime in the US. If US banks are denying banking services due to national origin, then those banks are being heavily criminal, regardless of the national origin involves Israel or Lebanon.
SwissPinoy March 21, 2013 at 07:14 PM
American confiscated gold in 1933 and may do so again, given that it is in a much worse situation than Cyprus.
SwissPinoy March 21, 2013 at 07:17 PM
laplateau, national origin discrimination is a federal crime in the US. The criminal acts of some individuals does not justify crimes against innocent Americans in violation of US federal laws. If you want to be criminal against hated Semites, then first change US laws to allow such hate crimes.
bitsy08 March 21, 2013 at 08:11 PM
Swiss: You need to realize that ALL PEOPLE need to earn respect. I don't care from which country you came, you need to earn respect. At the same time, it's not right for anyone to hate you just because of what you are. As to this action from the banks, methinks there's more to it. I'm sure working through the ACLU will provide them with the answer. At that time, they "might" consider court action. I would also bet that Homeland Security is in this somewhere.
bitsy08 March 21, 2013 at 10:16 PM
I don't know, Swiss, how you got from this story to hating Semites. As far as I'm concerned, your'e assuming an awful lot. As I said, if the bank closed these accounts they had a reason and my belief is that Homeland Security is involved. What I don't agree with is that that reason was not conveyed to the account holders.
bitsy08 March 21, 2013 at 10:34 PM
Wow, Swiss, you really have a bad habit of taking gigantic leaps from what one writes. Perhaps instead of criticizing others about not being able to speak English, I suggest that you STOP - and re-read what others have written before accusing them of what you THINK you read. THERE IS NO WAY I even HINTED at the hatred of Semites being honored. Where the heck did you get that from what I wrote? And if you can read English, perhaps you'd best try to uderstand what I wrote. I was on your side. And as to your remark about Israel, you're the one who quoted (again in error) an article that had nothing to do with Israel but now you use the argument that people of both nations have the same right to be treated equally. ALL people - ALL PEOPLE OF ALL NATIONS - have the right to be treated equally. And as for the teacher not being given the job, the job was for a teaching position in an AMERICAN school. Silly me. I thought we spoke English in our schools. It seems to me you ASSume an awful lot. I will say I agree with a lot of people in the surrounding communities. It seems we are bending to the Middle Eastern population to make them happy. They live in our country. They need to adapt to our ways. If they want to keep their language and their religion and their "ways," keep them at home. Now, I'm going to ASSume that you're going to accuse me of being anti-Semite or anti-something. Have at it. I'll just add that mistake to the list of your previous ones.
marooned in Dbn March 22, 2013 at 12:20 AM
SwissPinoy, Of course anything is possible. What do you think when you read news reports in England on occasion when a chest of Roman gold and silver coinage is dug up from a field somewhere ? Some person over a thousand years ago hid his/her wealth from some form of confiscation. Unfortunately, this person either died or forgot where the stash was. (sigh), However, this is what PVC piping and backyards were made for in this day and age.
laplateau March 22, 2013 at 12:38 AM
Bitsy,,, you are right on when you suggest that the feds are part of all this, just as I suggested in my original comments at the beginning of this thread. I just can't believe the banks are doing this on their own without the influence and direction from Washington.
SwissPinoy March 22, 2013 at 04:11 AM
bitsy08, having discussed the middle east conflict for over a decade, I've found the US to often be bigoted against Semites. Thus, it is not surprising that the US is kicking hated Semites out of banks in violation of US federal laws which prohibit national origin discrimination. The Homeland Security excuse would need to be supported with evidence to have any credibility.
SwissPinoy March 22, 2013 at 04:26 AM
bitsy08, every Semite I encountered in America spoke fluent English and had adapted to American culture, regardless if they were Jewish or Arab. Thus, it puzzles me that some Americans get all fussy that a job teaching Hebrew requires knowledge of Hebrew. Some Americans tend to get extreme with their English-only logic. It is wrong that this discussion has nothing to do with Israel because the US government doesn't treat American Semites the same, favoring Semites with connections to Israel over Semites with other national origins. So far, there has been no reporting of banks kicking out those linked to financing settler terrorism in the nation of Palestine. US banks don't kick out those who fund terrorism. Rather, they kick out those who fall under a specific national origin which is not favored with American bigotry.
SwissPinoy March 22, 2013 at 04:30 AM
If Washington is responsible this federal crime of national origin discrimination, then Washington needs to provide evidence to explain why it believes that American federal laws may be violated where Semites are concerned.
SwissPinoy March 22, 2013 at 04:33 AM
All Americans deserve to be respected unless one can prove otherwise. Thus, the US government needs to prove that US federal laws against national origin discrimination may be violated under certain circumstances. As it stands right now, the US government is demonstrating that US laws may be violated with its support and approval.
bitsy08 March 22, 2013 at 02:22 PM
Okay. This is my FINAL remark about this belabored subject. Swiss: Once again you ASSume. The job was for a teaching position in an American school and where you got that they spoke Hebrew is beyond me. One point I'd like to make is this: If you want your children taught in a special language, then you need to set up your OWN schools. In American schools, we usually have a CLASS in that language. Or if you're in Lebanon, it would be appropriate for your teachers to speak the national language. The language in America is English. Why any American school would require a teacher to speak anything but (unless they were teaching a language class) is beyond me. As far as I'm concerned, just another instance of US bending to THEM. Which brings me to another point. If you want to be accepted in our country, then don't expect to be treated in a special way. Teach your language in your churches. Now to the banks and the USA. I've said - and I continue to believe - that Homeland Security is involved in all this. I don't believe the banks would make that decision on their own. As a matter of fact, I would tend to think that the banks were notified by HS and "advised" as to the action to be taken. From what I've read, it's not an acceptable practice for them to explain their actions. Yes, you're right (did you understand that, Swiss?) I believe they should have to explain but will they? Perhaps when the ACLU gets involved.
SwissPinoy March 23, 2013 at 07:18 AM
bitsy08, the specific language required for a job is irrelevant. It doesn't matter if the language is Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese or anything else. I chose Hebrew because many Americans tend to be bigoted against Arabic and in favor of Hebrew. For example, some individuals here are opposing Arabic but have expressed no opposition against Hebrew. Thus, my choice of Hebrew thus reflects this problem of American bigotry. At the American Hebrew Academy, students read, write, and speak Hebrew each and every day. So, if Arabic is supposed to be a problem, then where is the uproar about Hebrew? Shouldn't all Semite languages be treated equally? Banks are far from perfect, having increased US debt by trillions with the financial crisis, and we have already established that America is generally bigoted against Arab Semites. Thus, the Homeland Security argument doesn't work as far as national origin discrimination is concerned.
bitsy08 March 23, 2013 at 01:41 PM
They teach Hebrew at the American HEBREW School because it's the AMERICAN HEBREW SCHOOL. It's not Fordson Arabic School n Dearborn. It's FORDSON. Why a teacher would be required to speak any other language except for English is beyond me unless they're teaching an Arabic language CLASS, or a Spanish language CLASS, or an Italian language CLASS. As to your argument about the banks, I agree with you. I believe the cause of our financial crisis lays at the feet of the banks and NO ONE has done anything to them. As far as my argument about Homeland Security, I stick by it. NOW I'M DONE.
SwissPinoy March 25, 2013 at 04:38 AM
Bigty08, so at one school, the American Hebrew School, some teachers are required to speak Hebrew since many kids speak Hebrew. Then, at one school, the Fordson school, some teachers are required to speak Arabic since many kids speak Arabic. What's the problem? One school has many Hebrew kids and one school has many Arabic kids. I don't see an issue here.
laplateau March 25, 2013 at 02:10 PM
I realize you see no problem here because you are very much in favor of multi-culturalism. But, the root of the problem IS multi-culturalism in more than one way. One is very obvious in that we seem to be "sensitive" to the needs of all immigrants, whether language,religion,culture, the dietary habits,etc. Often this means those of us born here are edged out of the jobs we are more qualified for other than being multi-lingual in order to land the job. This very much favors those who already immigrated from the same countries that are now overwhelming our populations, whether it be Asian, Mexican, Arab or one of many others. It seems to me that the language we have always used as a medium of communication in the U.S. is ENGLISH. No one seems to be concerned about OUR culture,...yes, OUR AMERICAN culture. Where do you think you might ever go in this world where another government would change, for the benefit of an American, their teaching requirements, lunch programs, print their forms in 20 different languages, create individual curriculums...this list goes on ad-infinitum! If someone from another country wants to come here for whatever reason, we should not be required to cater to their whims...they should adapt to our way of doing things.
laplateau March 25, 2013 at 02:10 PM
The problem is our elected government officials see these people as another voting bloc and will do anything, at the expense of the American people and way of life, to gain another vote. The real shame is that we allow that to happen. And bitsy....you have it right...and this is also my last comment. Swiss is out in left field...no---not even in the ballpark, and his non-sensical debating (if you can call it that) points seem airheaded.
SwissPinoy March 25, 2013 at 05:28 PM
laplateau, as I mentioned earlier, learn Hebrew or Arabic to gain better access to the job market. Learning a language is an advantage, not a disadvantage. There are always going to be jobs which specialize in a certain language. There is also plenty of English in America, so if one wants to have an edge in the job market, then learn another language. Most Hebrew or Arabic speakers in America also speak English, giving them access to not only English jobs, but jobs requiring another language too. I often speak English, but I have good access to the job market in Europe because I learned another language.
bitsy08 March 25, 2013 at 08:14 PM
I'm talkin' to the wall, here.
bitsy08 March 25, 2013 at 08:16 PM
Amen, laplateau!
SwissPinoy March 25, 2013 at 08:43 PM
Actually, the issue is that national origin discrimination is an American law, American culture, enacted by the American people which you are supposed to obey and follow as an American citizen. This American law and American culture states that it is a federal crime to deny a person a bank account due to their national origin. As such, if you believe in America, then you must ensure that American law is not being violated, meaning that you'll ensure that no American citizens have been wrongly harmed with national origin discrimination. Opposing Americans due to national origin is really certainly not America-compliant.
SwissPinoy March 25, 2013 at 09:12 PM
bitsy08, It is cute how you advocated English-only and then defended Hebrew while condemning Arabic. If that's not anti-Semitism, then what is it?
michail March 25, 2013 at 10:27 PM
Whoever said something about " if you dont like it here in america, then go back to your country of orgin " is dead wrong and can't think about what happened before now. I am a u.s marine and I Have seen lots of destruction on the arab countries through NATO and other single power nations in this world of ours. My point is that a lot of arabs can't go back to their countries of orgin because the west has bombed the infrastructure and destroyed their way of life so badly that they have no choice but to stay here. Second, we have spread so much depleted uranium all across the middle east that it is so unsafe to breath the air there. For those of you that dont know what depleted uranium is, it is basically a chemical that is used in every one of our militarys ammo and in every bomb or missle that we launch. The darkside to this id that it causes extreme disfiguration in new borns and causes cancer throughout the land for decades to come. mike. semper fi and god nless america and the world.
laplateau March 26, 2013 at 01:56 PM
Oh Michael, yes...I am sobbing now for all those Arabs you feel have been so mistreated by us Americans...oh, boo-hoo. Gee, here in America they are forced to eat halal foods in our public schools, forced to take those bridge cards, forced to move into Section 8 housing, forced to be taught in bi-lingual classes, forced into school break periods that coincide with Ramadam, forced into accepting all sorts of public assistance programs, including many that take Social Security benefits, child assistance programs, etc. Darn Michael, they have nothing to be grateful for here in America, we are the great Satan, right?? I have to stop here; my American back is aching from bending over backward so much! And oh, by the way, now I am so much more proud to be a former Army Infantryman rather your sort of Marine.
edward binkley March 26, 2013 at 08:21 PM
I don't agree with some of the patriot act that the banks use but i believe they have a right to deny a transaction and to have a limit on transactions from several different countries on a watch list. But as known we do have people in our city on the watch list and most are coming out from canada. But I may get soc.security but I have worked for it, I don't recieve food stamps but am willing to work hardfor what I get.But really what gets me is how your culture will come here buy a business and not pay taxes then send your profit to you country and bring a cousin back over here to do the same thing and not hire any american people. But in all and all we are brothers and sisters and whether your god is called ala or our god is savior,Lord we must all learn to get along with each other and help each other.
SwissPinoy March 27, 2013 at 04:57 PM
laplateau, generalizations do not justify violations of US federal laws against Semites.
bitsy08 March 27, 2013 at 06:14 PM
How condescending of you to characterize my remarks as "cute."
Sean March 27, 2013 at 06:17 PM
How full of it can you possibly be? As a US Marine you would think you could spell your own name correctly. Last time I checked our pals had no problem destroying their own infrastructure, take a look at Lebanon for a prime example.
bitsy08 May 17, 2013 at 01:10 PM
You'd have to wake him up, first, Pam.


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