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Minuteman protest provokes reaction both ways

A man drove past the 40th Avenue branch of Bank of America on Thursday and yelled "They should change the name to the Bank of SOUTH America" before honking his horn and driving off.

On the street corner, more than two dozen people carrying protest signs and American flags smiled and waved back. They'd gathered to boycott the bank because of its new pilot program that offers credit cards in California to people who do not have Social Security numbers.

"Who doesn't have a Social Security number? Only illegal immigrants, who else could it be?" fumed Bruce Lloyd, spokesperson for the Yakima chapter of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, the civilian border-patrol activist group. "I just closed down my checking and savings account that I had for 15 years ... about a dozen Minutemen have done the same thing."

The Minutemen, who patrol U.S. borders looking for illegal activities, are no strangers to controversy. Supporters see their actions as patriotic, while critics contend the patrols are only meant to harass undocumented immigrants.

Thursday's protest again drew out both sides of the argument.

"I was just waiting for the bus, but these people started irritating me with their ignorant ideas," said Loreena Beltran, who was at the bus stop next to the Bank of America. "Mexicans and Americans are all from the same continent -- these people should go back to school and learn some geography."

Florencio Garza, on the other hand, a delivery driver for California Overnight, came over to shake the hands of protesters and told them he'd join them if he weren't working.

"I'm a Mexican, but I'm an American first," Garza said. "My parents immigrated legally ... took forever, but that's what they did.

"What the bank's doing isn't right."

The bank's controversial credit cards are only available at Los Angeles branches, but the plan sparked a nationwide debate after it was first reported on the front page of the Wall Street Journal earlier this month. To qualify, applicants must have had a B of A bank account for the past three months without having been overdrawn.

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 Minuteman Civil Defense Corps Project and MinutemanHQ.com are projects of Declaration Alliance (DA) -- a public policy and issues advocacy organization
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