Remittances are lifelines between many immigrants and family members’ survival in Somalia and other East African countries

A remittance is an electronic wire transfer of funds from one country to another. For decades, many immigrant residents of the United States kept family members alive through this way of getting money across borders. Fears that terror groups like ISIS or Al-Shabaab would find ways to divert remittances to a terrorist effort prompted the United States to close down all of the channels for funds, not just from here to Somali or Ethiopia, but also to England, Denmark, Sweden and other countries where East Africans’ relatives might be living. Following earlier efforts by Rep. Keith Ellison and other congressional leaders, channels were reestablished, but on February 6th, the only remaining US channel, the Merchant Bank of California closed its money services business clients’ accounts.

A rally in late February by Somali/East African leaders, joined by local and statewide officials began exploring additional steps to be taken by Minnesota’s Congressional delegation to again reopen these channels. Ventura Village’s Sadik Warfa, who is also Deputy Director of the Global Somali Diaspora, located in the neighborhood, stated, “ Although it’s a federal issue and must be solved by federal action, we are going to do our part to meet and develop a united front and explore the next steps to be taken to resolve this crisis. The money that many East Africans send to our Homelands is the only sources of income for many families; closing the remittances has life and death consequences for many of the most vulnerable—women, children and elders. We need your help in addressing these consequences that this bank action is taking on our families back home.”

By helping newer Americans provide support to their families and to their home countries also pours millions of dollars back into those wartorn economies. This is one of the easiest way to ensure that most people will maintain their loyalty to a country who helps them help family members who may be destitute and dying back home.