Congress members fight for Somali-Americans unable to send money back home


It's a policy that makes a lot of sense on paper: restrict money transfers to countries where there's suspected terrorist activity, so it doesn't fall into the wrong hands.

But the anti-terror regulation is making it increasingly hard for the state's Somali-American community to send cash back home. Despite efforts from some Minnesota congressional members, the situation may not improve any time soon.

Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, along with Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken and several other politicians, met with federal officials in Washington, D.C., Thursday to discuss the matter. This came after the group sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry asking for a meeting, ABC 6 reports.

According to the Star Tribune, it failed to produce any results. Ellison tells the paper, "No one (at the meeting) took institutional responsibility for figuring this out.”

Meanwhile, there are concerns that stopping bank remittances will smash Somalia's already fragile economy.

An Al Jazeera report indicates they're a critical source of income for families, and money sent from abroad comprises more than 50 percent of the nation's gross national income.

In addition, Ellison and others worry that the banking restrictions – designed to thwart terrorists – may only serve to strengthen groups like Al-Shabab, which recently threatened the Mall of America.

The 5th District Democrat tells WCCO he fears the group could swoop in and offer to help families who are starved for food and cash – after the payments from their relatives in the U.S. stop coming in.

"The last thing that we want to do is push Somalis into the hands of these homicidal maniacs," Ellison says in a recent NPR interview.

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Bank working on fix as Somalis fret over money transfer shutdown

Minnesota Somalis are worried after news that the money transfer company that handles most of the community's transactions with Somalia is shutting down amid fears that it may have a hand in routing cash to terrorists. Federal officials say Somalis in America send $100 million a year back to relatives in Somalia, which lacks a formal banking system.