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Group Alleges Holder Justice Department Hurting Latino Community

Operation Choke Point, the shadowy project initiated by the Department of Justice to target financial institutions deemed against the public interest, has been challenged by a new advocacy group.

The LIBRE Initiative Institute on Thursday announced its entrance into the fray with an amicus brief, arguing that Operation Choke Point has acted completely outside the public eye and without accountability, unfairly devastating the Hispanic business and customer community. The LIBRE Initiative’s brief was filed in the only ongoing Choke Point case Community Financial Services Association of America v. FDIC.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) coordinates with a variety of other federal agencies like the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to target financial institutions who service clients the administration finds to be undesirable. The DOJ turns its gaze towards businesses in industries dealing with payday loans, fireworks, tobacco, ammunition, and other goods services. After targets are selected, the DOJ pressures financial institutions behind the scenes to cease doing business with specific clients.

“[M]any of the businesses hurt by the operation provide access to capital and services of particular value in the Latino community. This unilateral action has forced many enterprises to close – with a disproportionate impact on jobs and services in Latino communities nationwide,” said a statement from the LIBRE Initiative.

On Monday, GOP senators led by Sen. Jerry Moran from Kansas wrote a letter asking Attorney General Eric Holder to cease Operation Choke Point and to stop selectively targeting fully legal businesses to further partisan priorities.

“The DOJ must focus on combating fraud and stop politicizing its enforcement priorities. It should promptly cease seeking to use subpoenas and legal actions to unfairly impose liability on parties not involved in fraud and to put out of business merchants engaged in legal and legitimate commerce the DOJ disfavors,” the letter stated.

Members of Congress have continually received reports from their constituents involved in what the DOJ terms “high risk” industries, and these constituents suspect  they are being denied financial services because financial institutions are on the receiving end of implicit threats from the DOJ.

“The federal government should stop trying to arbitrarily undercut or shut down businesses it doesn’t like, and allow for an open debate, with proper opportunity for comment and analysis, rather than wielding administrative power,” LIBRE Initiative Policy Director Jorge Lima added.

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