Bank of America (BAC) declared on Thursday that it would not cancel its new credit card program for individuals with no Social Security numbers or credit histories, which critics charge is an attempt to profit from illegal immigrants and a potential threat to national security.
In an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, Bank of America CEO Kenneth D. Lewis made clear the bank would not kill the program, which he said was intended only to offer services to customers lacking credit backgrounds, and was not initiated to target illegal immigrants in the U.S.
"Bank of America does not deliberately market financial products and services to illegal immigrants from any country." he wrote. Instead, the bank chief said that the program was created to help consumers who lack certain financial tools.
"We believe we have an obligation to serve all those in our country who are legally eligible to receive services. To do less would be discriminatory and unfair."
Bank of America introduced the program as a trial in the Los Angeles, Calif., area last year, and expanded it to over 50 branches in mid-February. That expansion sparked outrage amongst some politicians on Capitol Hill, who see the program as a security threat that could give terrorists a financial lifeline in the U.S.
"After September 11, we were told that money was the lifeblood of terrorists, and that we should do everything possible to block their access to financial resources," Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., said in a statement last week. "Today we are hearing a far different message: Bank of America, it's everywhere terrorists want to be."
Lewis brushed off such charges, and said that the credit card program adheres to all legal requirements.
"As with all our products, the program meets the identification requirements of the USA Patriot Act, U.S. Treasury Department regulations and internal fraud prevention procedures," he wrote.
The CEO also acknowledged that the company's decision to continue the credit card offerings would be met with more criticism.
"We know some will find this unacceptable. Even so, we feel we have a great obligation to live by the laws of the land, to serve our customers, and to do our part to support the security of our nation's financial systems."
Reuters contributed to this report.