New Orleans It’s hard enough for immigrant families to deal with the predatory cost structure and indifference of regulators to best practices in making money transfers or remittances to their families in their home countries, but now it also has been revealed that the records of these transactions are also another part of the vast, secret web of bulk data collections, this time by the CIA. The collections are being made under the same Bush-era Patriot Act authority overseen by the equally secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that has allowed the National Security Agency (NSA) to run rough shod over the rights and privacy of Americans.
ACORN International and its affiliates have been waging a Remittance Justice Campaign for several years, and demanding a reduction in costs and increased transparency, but frankly in our discussions with Western Union and other money transfer organizations (MTOs), we had overlooked the likelihood that not only were our members being fleeced financially, but they were also being spied on as possible terrorists with the simplest remittance to relatives and family at home and thereby criminalized on an international scale.
Government sources claim no one should worry because this supposedly does not include bank-to-bank transfers, but the costs of those transfers are prohibitive compared even to MoneyGram and Western Union, so essentially between the lines, they are saying that commercial transfers, where bank-to-bank action is routine, are not being collected, but individuals are. They also saying that the identities of American citizens are being withheld unless the CIA establishes a tie to an alleged terrorist source, so parents wiring money to children studying abroad can rest assured, but, friends, they are not the folks lined up at a Western Union office, so in reality they are really saying that if you are an immigrant, visitor, or perhaps even a foreigner, they have your records, and given the predatory pricing, dollars to donuts, we’re paying for that in the price of our transfers.
Now we have a new demand, unfortunately, for our Remittance Justice Campaign, and that will be proof that our governments are not spying on us and keeping our transfer records while we are innocently trying to support our families and communities back home and real evidence not platitudes from Western Union and the rest that they are not turning over our records to the government in any country where we work.