Wall Street can invest in Saudi Arabia, Somali packinghouse workers can’t send money home

I represent many Somali immigrants who work in meatpacking plants across Nebraska. According to the BBC, Somalis in the United States sent $100m back to Somalia in 2011. However this lifeline has been blocked because U.S. banks are afraid they will be prosecuted for sending money to Somalia because it could end up supporting  Al-Shabaab, the Somali offshoot of al-Qaeda.

The BBC reported that two Somali immigrants in Minneapolis were convicted of sending $8600 to al-Shabaab. Despite concerns over al-Shabaab receiving financial support from the United States, American intelligence officials concede that the vast majority of remittances sent by Somali immigrants to Somali nationals are for legitimate purposes.  Critics of U.S. policy argue that preventing legitimate money transfers from the United States to Somalia will do little to keep money from the U.S. from getting to al-Shabaab.

Stopping legitimate money transfers from Somalia to the U.S. is also hypocritical.  It is no secret that Saudi oil money supports terrorism.  A decade after 9/11, Saudi money is still funding terrorism. However in 2009, according to the Office of the United States Trade Representative, American companies and investors invested $8.1 billion in Saudi Arabia. Some of that money probably went to terrorists. However neither Republicans or Democrats are  going to let that inconvenient fact stop the Wall Street types who largely fund their campaigns from maximizing  their profits by investing in Saudi oil. In contrast, you would be hard-pressed to find a Somali packinghouse worker among the ranks of Super PAC funders or bundlers

In a separate article the BBC pointed out that Somalia’s private sector is doing well considering the chaotic political conditions in the country. Part of the reason for the success of Somalia’s private sector is the remittances send back by Somali immigrants — including the ones working in packing plants in Nebraska. On Thursday a major conference will convene in London on the future of Somalia.  I hope conference attendees will realize the contribution made to future of Somalia made by Somali immigrants working in packinghouses in Nebraska and the rest of the United States who send their hard earned dollars back to their home country.

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