Fresno credit union faces discrimination lawsuit

Auto loan applicant says she was denied loan from Noble Credit Union due to DACA status

(Noble Credit Union)
(Noble Credit Union)
Darren Fraser
Published January 17, 2024  • 
9:00 am

FRESNO – Fresno-based Noble Credit Union is facing a class action lawsuit after a customer claims she was denied an auto loan – not because of her credit rating, but because she is a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipient.

On Jan. 5, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) filed a class action complaint on behalf of Noemi Peraza Lopez in Fresno Superior Court. The claim alleges Noble, by rescinding the loan due to its “limited and arbitrary immigration status requirements,” violated Lopez’s civil rights under the Unruh Civil Rights Act.

According to the court documents, the timeline for this development begins on July 13, 2023, when Lopez applied for a $35,865 car loan. She listed her father as a co-signer on the loan. Later that day, Nobel informed Lopez her loan had been approved in the amount of $35,000.

The following day, Noble mailed Lopez a letter containing the terms of the agreement. Lopez agreed and initiated the loan application process.

On July 19, Noble sent Lopez and her father a letter saying the credit union “cannot grant you credit at this time.” At the time, no explanation was given for the denial. Lopez learned later from a Noble representative her loan was denied because her driver’s license was for “limited term.” According to MALDEF, immigrants who are legally present in the state, such as DACA recipients, can apply for and receive driver’s licenses for a limited term.

On July 21, Lopez emailed Noble a copy of her driver’s license. Her license expires July 26, 2027.

On Sept. 7, Noble sent Lopez a letter telling her it was unable to offer her credit on the terms she requested. The letter said the credit union did not grant credit to any applicants on the terms and conditions Lopez requested. Noble did not explain what those terms and conditions were.

AT ISSUE

According to MALDEF, the issue is not Lopez’s credit worthiness – she eventually secured a loan in the same amount from another bank but at a higher interest rate. The issue is Lopez’s immigration status.

“Even though Peraza has been a member of Noble for many years and a U.S. Citizen served as a cosigner, Noble decided to deny her an auto loan,” MALDEF staff attorney Luis Lozada said in a press release on the MALDEF site. “This denial demonstrates that Noble picks and chooses who receives credit on arbitrary grounds.”

Lopez, who, coincidentally, works in a bank, called out Noble over its decision.

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

UNRUH CIVIL RIGHTS ACT

In its complaint, MALDEF said Noble rescinded Lopez’s loan because she is not a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. This, according to MALDEF, violates the state’s Unruh Civil Rights Act. The Act prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, citizenship, immigration status, age and other characteristics.

MALDEF said Lopez is bringing the class action against Noble on behalf of herself and all persons denied loan or credit products by Noble. The complaint identified these individuals as a Credit Denial Class, which is defined as “persons with Social Security Numbers who attempted to apply for a loan or credit product from Noble Credit Union but were denied full and equal consideration by Noble on their alienage or immigration status.”

DACA DO’S AND DON’TS

DACA recipients do not enjoy all the rights of regular U.S. citizens. According to a “DACA Fact Sheet” published by the University of Purdue, DACA recipients are not eligible for political amnesty. They cannot be placed on a path towards citizenship or legalization.

DACA recipients cannot vote. Nor are they eligible for federal benefits, such as Social Security, college financial aid or food stamps.

These recipients can receive stays against deportation. In some states, such as California, a DACA recipient can get a driver’s license. And they are required to pay federal, state and local taxes, contributing $1.2 billion annually in tax revenue.

DACA recipients may also qualify for home and car loans and credit cards.

According to Fresno Superior Court, the next court action for the complaint is a case management action scheduled for May 1.

Darren Fraser
Reporter