This story gives new meaning to the phrases, “we are the world.” We posted this mid-May but think it’s worth another look.
Somali refugees have been pouring into the US and we will take in about 9,000 this year, not counting those here illegally or asylum seekers. The top ten states receiving Somalis in 2015 in order are: Minnesota, New York, Arizona,Ohio,Texas, Pennsylvania, Washington, Massachusetts, Missouri, and California.
The reason they are admitted is because it’s not safe in Somalia, however, some of these refugees act as couriers and travel back-and-forth, taking millions of US dollars in cash to Somalia. Some of this money could end up with terrorists and it takes the money out of the US economy.
Some of the refugees, the refugees with the largest amounts of cash, are on welfare benefits.
A story at King 5 Seattle might make you wonder about the sanity of our refugee system.
Somali couriers working for hawalas show up at the Sea-Tac Airport reporting that they are carrying sometimes millions in cash. Hawalas are businesses that derive their name from the Arabic word for “transfer” and they are part of a traditional system of informal banking in Muslim communities.
“The thing was the amount, the staggering amount,” said Glenn Kerns, who was assigned to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) at the time.
Seattle and King County are home to tens of thousands of immigrants and refugees from East Africa who purportedly send money home to their families but there is no way to know if it ends up with Al Shabaab, Kerns noted.
Some of the amounts ranged from $750,000 to $20 million.
Hawalas have been watched since 9/11 and over the years US banks, pressured by the government to monitor them have refused to wire money on their behalf, so now they use couriers.
Kerns researched the names of the ten clients who transferred the most money through hawalas last year.
“All ten of them were on welfare benefits. DSHS benefits,” said Kerns. “It’s fraud. Straight up fraud – every one of them.”
Kerns said he, along with an agent from a federal agency he would not disclose, took their case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle.
“They don’t want to touch it,” said Kerns. “My opinion – I believe it’s because it will look like they’re targeting a certain population.”
Meanwhile officials and banks are trying to restore banking services to these refugees, fraudsters, and possible terrorists.