State Representative Karen Clark (DFL – Minneapolis) and State Senator Jeff Hayden (DFL – Minneapolis) voiced their growing concern over the inaction of most state and federal banking institutions in addressing the suspension of money-transferring services for Somali American families. Many Somali Americans rely on this service to send money back to Africa in order to feed their families. Given the reluctance of the GOP Majority to provide a hearing, a “people’s hearing” will be held Tuesday morning.
“Somalia is in the throes of a terrible famine that is claiming the lives of thousands of people,” explained Rep. Clark. “This is not just an issue of fair policy, but one of a humanitarian effort. The situation is dire.”
Last December, banks used by Somali American families to transfer money to the Horn of Africa suspended these services following the conviction of two Minnesota women found wiring money to a known terrorist group in Somalia. Federal regulations designed to thwart terrorist funding have made it a concern for banks to continue this service as they can be held liable for funding terrorists. It’s possible that U.S. Bank may be an exception as they are in the process of negotiating with the Somali community on this issue.
Still, given the necessity of these services for Somali Americans to support their families back home, DFL legislators believe that through discussions with the Somali community and state and federal policymakers a solution can be found. As such they have authored a resolution, HF 1902/SF 2159, urging all parties affected to come together to reach a solution that would both allow money transferring services to continue, while securing the United States from terrorism.
“Certainly we need to ensure that money transferred from here to the Horn of Africa is not going into the wrong hands, but the solution is not to cut off this service altogether,” said Sen. Hayden. “With estimates that 50% of children in Somalia are malnourished, we need to find a way to help our Somali brothers and sisters, so they can help their families back in Africa.”
Testimony at the “people’s hearing” will include personal accounts from Somali American families, as well as concerns from members of the Somali Action Alliance.
Executive Director for the Somali Action Alliance, Hashi Shafi, said, “The money services businesses [MSB’s] are a life line to our loved ones. There has been no other financial avenue to them since we have had no central government in Somalia for 22 years. We need MSB’s.”
The “people’s hearing” will be held Tuesday, April 17 at 8:30 a.m. in Room 300N of the State Office Building.