‘Suitcases full of cash’: the story behind the story

hawalaprotest

Photo from 2012 protest

With the Somali economy in shambles because of civil war, many people living there depend on assistance from family members in the United States to pay for food, medicine, and other basic necessities. Somalia has little banking infrastructure. Years ago, the U.S. government forbade U.S. banks from sending money to informal banking systems in Somalia. That left Somali-Americans with no way to send money to relatives desperate for help—except by sending cash.

Last week, Fox News strung together anonymous sources and rumors to libel the Somali community in Minnesota. Minnesota Public Radio reported that one named sources, who also testified at a quickly-called legislative hearing, has a serious past history of making false and defamatory statements. He has been sued for his false statements in the past, and has apologized in writing, acknowledging the falsehoods.

Daycare fraud exists—it has been investigated and prosecuted in the past and some investigations are ongoing. The Fox 9 report, however, greatly exaggerated the amount of the fraud and falsely claimed it had a connection to terrorism.

At a press conference on Friday, hosted by CAIR-Minnesota, Muslim Coalition of ISAIAH, SEIU Local 26, SAMSA and many money services businesses and mosques, Somali community members spoke out, An Isaiah press release summarizing the press conference said, in part:

“The community has already been subjected to ongoing tactics of division and fear mongering throughout a heated political season. In the past year, in Minnesota alone, death threats have been made on African immigrants lives and a mosque has been bombed. Now more recently, the system of getting essential money to families abroad has been attacked. Insinuations that have been discredited in the past appeared again in a recent televised story to vilify the only option left for men, women and children to get their basic needs met – hand delivered cash transactions.

“Some people want to talk about ‘suitcases full of cash’, then let us talk about them,” said Abdiaziz Sugule, president of the Somali American Money Services Association (SAMSA), which represents Minnesota’s Money Services Businesses (MSBs) for Minnesotan Somalis. “To be clear – they are not, nor have ever been a secret, they are registered with the government and easy to track. But the more fundamental truth is we don’t want them.  It is dangerous for us, and risky for the money that we are trying to send to our loved ones.”

“Sugule and many others have been fighting for nearly a decade to have safe and secure methods to transfer money to Somalia and other African countries for their families and those in need during the humanitarian crisis taking place there.

“We have been working with government and banking officials for many years to resolve this issue,” said Scott Paul, humanitarian policy lead of Oxfam, an international organization dedicated to ending global poverty. “The lack of banking services to the horn of Africa has made an already difficult humanitarian relief effort even harder.”

“Several organizations have worked tirelessly and with little success with to create a system with state legislators and US Bank, Wells Fargo and others to resolve the challenges of sending much needed money overseas.

“It is hurtful and dangerous to have your entire community involved in a false scandal,” said Sugule. “The real scandal is how politicians and banks could know about this for so long, to know that small businesses and communities were asking for a better solution, and now act surprised when they think it will be to their advantage to scapegoat our community for their political gain.”

Additional background:

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1 Comment

Filed under fact check, immigration, media

One response to “‘Suitcases full of cash’: the story behind the story

  1. Pingback: Talking back to Trump | Immigration news

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