Why do they freeze the bank accounts of migrants in Mexico?

MEXICO.- Fernando Ruíz knew that he was immersed in a bureaucratic labyrinth between banks and the government when his bank, Banorte, prevented him from making electronic movements, a system in which he had settled very well to make the payments on a house that he obtained with an Infonavit loan for popular housing.

A native of Tijuana, he emigrated to the United States in search of a better salary but with the aim of returning to live in a while and for this reason he kept his bank account and credit among many other matters of any migrant who has the body on one side and the mind in another.

Everything was going well financially, even when the debit card that he could no longer renew because it was many miles from his branch expired. It continued to operate with mobile banking and a token. “The problem started when I changed my phone and he didn’t let me in last year,” he says on the phone.

Then he remembered that when something similar happened to his wife Cesaria Torralba she called Bancomer (where she had the account) and they told her that, if she gave someone she trusted in Mexico a power of attorney, that person could renew her debit card and the online banking contract and carry out any operation on its behalf.

The power of attorney for migrants is processed at the consulates, he knew it. She found out the requirements on the website and despite being in the middle of the pandemic, the complications for appointments and her rigorous schedule at the restaurant where she works, she managed to obtain a power of attorney for her mother, who had done the same procedure for Cesaria .

He mailed it home to Mexico, and his surprise was when days later, his mother told him that Banorte did not accept the power of attorney and even more: “The account holder has to come or nothing can be done.” they warned.

That was about 18 months ago. He still has twice the time left before the bank freezes his 30,000 pesos (about $ 1,500). According to Article 61 of the Credit Institutions Law, banks classify as “inactive” checking, savings and investment accounts that do not register movements in a period of three years.

If it is not claimed within that time, the institution sends the money from these accounts to public charity and, if it is not claimed for three more years, there is no longer the possibility of recovering those resources.

The National Commission for the Protection and Defense of Users of Financial Services (Condusef) recommends “generating some movement or, where appropriate, cancel them and withdraw the money available.”

In all cases, Fernando Ruíz has his hands tied. You cannot withdraw the money or claim it or reactivate your account that you fed through electronic transfers from Wells Fargo to your Banorte account, where the scheduled payment was made to Infonavit. Now, instead, she has to deposit her brother and she goes directly to pay the system.

“We have been waiting a long time for immigration reform since Barack Obama and now with Biden. If finally it is not done, we want to return to Mexico and we would like to have that house and some savings ”.

ones yes and anothers not

Fernando Ruíz was unaware that, since 2011, only some banks accept opening and handling from abroad. These banks are: CitiBanamex, BBVA Bancomer, Banco Autofin México (Mi Banco), Banco Azteca, Banregio, Compartamos and Bankaool.

That is why his wife, who had the money in Bancomer, did accept the power of attorney for handling from abroad, and he, in Banorte, did not. “They should extend this possibility in all banks,” he warns. “You don’t always find out that some do and others don’t, and I no longer know what will happen to my money.”

The Condusef suggests that in specific cases it can be consulted in its consultation number +52 55 53 400 999 or to the email [email protected]

To the confusion that migrants have about which bank accepts the opening of accounts from abroad and which ones does not add the amount they can handle.

Because although the opening requirements are simple —name, gender, state of birth, date of birth and address—, payments to this account over the course of a month may not exceed $ 850 per month (17,000 pesos).

Samuel Alvarez, a migrant from Guanajuato living in Kansas, was very comfortable managing his cattle business in Juventino Rosas from the US with a Bancomer account when he canceled his account for exceeding the authorized money: they were making movements for around 20,000 pesos per week .

This is what is supposed to be done in a month.

“They told me that to reopen it I needed my current INE credential and that’s where another problem started,” he says in an interview with this newspaper. “In Kansas the consulate is not giving appointments for this type of procedure.”

Since the pandemic began, the smallest consulates have been criticized for their lack of efficiency in serving Mexicans who want to renew the INE or consular registration.

Once Samuel Alvárez reopens his bank account, he will continue to have the limit of the amount of an account from abroad as for eight months because he is the majority shareholder of a rural company that has 500 head of goats and cattle that produces milk.

The flow of money from buying and selling, plus what he injects from the US, far exceeds the limit of the Bancomer account. So far he has resolved with the support of his former partner and mother of his son who lives in Guanajuato. She receives the money and his father withdraws it in cash to pay clients and suppliers.

Samuel Alvarez knows that this is temporary and a problem with the Treasury will soon come because his ex will have to pay taxes on his behalf and the accounting issue will have to be resolved.

Baltazar Alvarez, father of Samuel Alvarez, with part of the cattle in Mexico. Photo: Courtesy Samuel Alvarez.

A solution could be the opening of a traditional account that does not have a deposit limit and any bank in Mexico offers the opening of this type of account. It could be opened by a relative (the father) who should ask that Samuel be the joint owner, request an additional debit card for him and send it to his home address in the United States, as the Condusef suggests.

However, the Bancomer account would still remain frozen until it can renew its INE. Luckily, he has every confidence in his father for other options. In other cases, migrants have had to use friends and acquaintances to make some transactions and not always with a good ending.

Artemio Gutiérrez, 39, who lives in Columbus, asked a comadre to open a savings account in her name in which she was depositing money sporadically until she told him that it had been frozen “due to lack of movements.”

It was in 2011 and, according to Artemio’s accounts, he had accumulated around $ 70,000 (about $ 3,500) that he wanted to buy a piece of land in Xalapa.

Artemio Gutierrez
Artemio Gutiérrez and one of his sons. Photo: Courtesy AG.

At first, the comadre told him that he would do everything possible to recover them but time passed, he was careless and now he is not sure if the woman stole from him or if the bank really sent him to a central account for three years and then to charity public. “It is very difficult to be seeing those things from another country.”

The Public Charity is an institution created in 1861 with the purpose of generating and channeling resources for the health care of those people who live in conditions of extreme poverty.

It is made up of a private estate whose assets are managed by the Federal Ministry of Health and is fed by money lost from bank accounts, among other sources.

The official option

Along with the possibilities and limitations of traditional banking, The Government of Mexico, in coordination with the Ministry of Finance, the Banco del Bienestar and the Ministry of Foreign Relations, authorized the contracting of accounts remotely, through the Banco de Bienestar (Banbien), the Mexican state bank formerly known as Bansefi.

To open one of these accounts it is necessary to present the Matricula or Consular Passport at any of the offices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or consular offices in the United States. You can have more information on the site: https://www.bancodelbienestar.com.mx

The advantages offered by Banbien is access to the reception of remittances in Mexico through 2,393 service points, between branches of Banco del Bienestar, popular financial companies and savings and loan cooperatives that make up L @ Red de la Gente, as well as correspondents of Telecomm.

The opening of accounts is in pesos remotely, through credit institutions and electronic payment funds, with the aim of receiving electronic remittances at the same exchange rate as that applicable for charges to credit and debit cards.

You can have a website and an app, developed by Banco de Méxicooy offers exchange operations in bank branches located in the processing modules for migrants for the temporary admission of private vehicles, where our currency can be exchanged for cash upon entering the country.

It also has the sale of prepaid cards denominated in pesos, issued by banks, for people who enter the national territory, to pay for goods and services and the Association of Banks of Mexico committed to making credit institutions offer the best exchange rate anywhere in the national territory.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said this year that Banbien would henceforth be one of the best ways to avoid remote account problems. that are in the United States and for bankarization; however, it still has some deficiencies detected by financial analysts.

This service aims to benefit mainly the families of the most vulnerable populations, in spaces commonly abandoned by the traditional financial system, however, Gustavo del Ángel, an academic at the Center for Economic Research and Teaching (CIDE) points out that meeting this objective is not So easy.

“There is no guarantee that when setting up a branch people will come closer, either because it is not close to them or because of the insecurity that exists in some areas of the country,” he commented in an interview.

During 2021 three branches of the Banco del Bienestar have been robbed: one in Valle de Bravo, from where the criminals stole two million pesos, another in Mexico City, and the third in Actopan, Hidalgo, a branch that had already been robbed in June 2020.

In Guanajuato, where Samuel Alvarez’s father lives, it is practically impossible to manage with cash because the roads are taken by cartels who demand extortion for everything, make searches and steal belongings. If you know that a bank is prioritizing remittances, it would be an easy target, concludes the migrant

Insecurity is a complex issue in the interior of the country. According to the National Urban Public Safety Survey (ENSU), 76.6% of the population of the surveyed cities responded that they feel unsafe when withdrawing money from an ATM located on the street.

Another fear of the Welfare Bank is that it will become a white elephant Because, although it will not be limited only to remittances but to monetary transfers from social programs and the government payroll, until now it does not grant credits and will not have any other capitalization than the money of migrants and the State that may change its mind in other six-year terms. ‘

On the other hand, none of the interviewees have had full guarantees in private banking. For Fernando Ruíz, his frozen account was the product of misinformation; for Samuel Alvarez a bureaucratic matter and for Artemio Gutiérrez of fraud or ignorance about the complex rules of the game. The lack of simplicity and standardization of the rules, the common denominator.

It may interest you:
– Trafficking of appointments in some consulates leaves Mexicans without documents
– Consulates in Houston report “ready” to help people affected by deportation orders
– Mobile consulates even in the most remote corners: NY consul


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