‘Suitcases Full of Cash’ are a Lifeline for Minnesota’s Somali Families, Humanitarian Efforts of Survival
Minnesotans reach nearly a decade of petitioning banks, legislators to create solutions that feed families, not endanger them
May 18, 2018 – Today the Somali-American business community and Muslim faith leaders of Minnesota called out recent scapegoating and grandstanding by some Republican politicians in the legislature. Several harmful bills have been introduced in the final days of this legislative session that do nothing to resolve the issues of families needing resources and instead engender divisive, fearful rhetoric about Minnesota’s African immigrant and Muslim communities.
“These bills introduced specifically target our communities and our transferring of money to our loved ones in Somalia,” said Jaylani Hussein, executive director of CAIR-Minnesota. “This is a cynical attempt to use African immigrant and Muslim communities as a political football in the final days of the legislative session.”
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.”
The group called on legislators to work with the community to create real solutions to this systems’ issues. The community has been fighting inequitable banking policies for nearly a decade and if these legislators sincerely want positive change, they are welcome to join in creating solutions that don’t disparage, endanger and vilify entire communities of people.
The press event was hosted by CAIR-Minnesota, Muslim Coalition of ISAIAH, SEIU Local 26, SAMSA and many Money Services Businesses and mosques.