We have taken the first step: on May 11th members of the Latino and Somali community in Minneapolis protested and began the “Move Your Money from Wells Fargo Campaign.” Now it is your turn to participate. Join the August 30th Day of Action and pull your money from Wells Fargo along with thousands of others around the country.
We have come to the conclusion that Wells Fargo has a responsibility to treat immigrant communities with more respect. The bear responsibility as shareholders for the conduce of private prison companies like CCA– companies that support laws like Arizona SB1070 and similar laws in other states that criminalize immigrants, cast suspicion on those who apear to be immigrants, and result in mass imprisonment of people from our communities.
We have seen Wells Fargo apparently preventing the Somali community sending remittances to relatives in Somali, a country that has been ravaged by civil war for many years.
And Wells Fargo executives provide financial support for anti-Immigrant politicians whose conduct clearly seek to harm our immigrant communities. On August 30th, we will say ‘Enough’ and we will move our money.
Legislators at the rally vowed to continue the fight to restore what is a lifeline for many in the war-torn nation.
The Somali community joined for a rally in front of the State Capitol on Friday . Somali American Money Services Association (SAMSA) called a rally at the State Capitol of Minnesota to ask banks restore relations with the companies wiring money to millions of Somali refugees, displaced and famine affected in the Horn of Africa.
For the second time since money-wiring services to East Africa were suspended in Minnesota last week, a large crowd of Somali-Americans rallied Friday to call on banks to restore relations with the money transfer businesses.
The businesses are used by countless Minnesota Somalis to send money to family members in Somalia. Many living in the war-ravaged nation have no other source of income.
The protest, organized by the Somali American Money Services Association, which represents the money-wiring businesses, took place in front of the State Capitol in St. Paul.
“Today, we are here to defend a moral cause,” Abdulwahid Qalinle, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, told the 300-strong crowd. “We are here to defend the rights of American citizens to be able to sustain their loved ones in the Horn of Africa.”
Other speakers included state Reps. Karen Clark and Jeff Hayden and U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison. Clark said she and Hayden will introduce legislation when the Legislature convenes later this month. She said the resolution will call on Minnesota banks to change their policies of not doing business with the money service businesses.
Years ago, several banks had accounts with the Somali-owned money service businesses, also known as hawalas. But they pulled their support after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, amid increased federal regulation designed to combat the flow of money overseas to terrorists.
Only one banking company — Sunrise Community Banks — remained in business with the hawalas. Sunrise closed its accounts with the hawalas on Dec. 30, citing liability concerns due to the regulations.
The account closures have led the money transfer operators to suspend their wiring services, leaving many Minnesota Somalis panicked about how to get money to their loved ones.
To protest Minnesota banks’ lack of support, 21 Somali-Americans with Wells Fargo banking accounts showed up at their local branch office on East Franklin Avenue on Thursday and closed their accounts.
Wells Fargo ended its relationship with hawalas about five years ago
Latino and Somali immigrants are organizing in Minneapolis, Minn., against Wells Fargo, telling the bank to stop donating to anti-immigrant politicians and investing in private prison corporations while courting immigrant customers.
About 150 people, many of them Wells Fargo customers and Latino or Somali immigrants, gathered outside a Wells Fargo branch on Saturday to protest the bank. The protest was part of a larger effort by 84 advocacy groups calling for Wells Fargo to divest its money from companies that profit off of immigrant detention.
The protesters called Wells Fargo hypocritical for targeting Latinos and immigrant customers while also giving money to causes that immigrants largely oppose, such as private immigrant detention centers and bills that make it difficult to migrate legally to the United States. Wells Fargo uses its mutual funds to invest in two of the largest for-profit detention companies: Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group, both of which spend millions each year lobbying for stricter immigration enforcement.
“On the one hand, Wells Fargo is launching coordinated ad campaigns around the country to recruit scores of new immigrant customers,” said Greg Nammacher, secretary-treasurer of Service Employees International Union Local 26, one of the organizers of a Saturday protest against the bank. “On the other hand, they’re financing the criminalization of immigrants through both support of anti-immigrant politicians and investing in companies like [Corrections Corporation of America].”
The two private prison companies, along with a third major company called Management and Training Corporation, profit a combined $5 billion from immigrant detention, according to Brave New Foundation’s “Immigrants for Sale” project. They have acknowledged that a slower pace of immigration enforcement would hurt their bottom line, with Corrections Corporation of America writing in its 2010 annual report that “the relaxation of enforcement efforts” could reduce demand for their services.
Both companies have been accused of cutting corners and hiring guards and workers who mistreat immigrant detainees. As of December 2010, Wells Fargo had invested $5.9 million in Corrections Corporation of America and $88.7 million in the GEO Group, In These Times reported in July.
Wells Fargo said its critics were misinformed that it invested its own funds in Corrections Corporation of America or the GEO Group, and said that any investments in the companies were made by Wells Fargo mutual funds using money from clients.
“Wells Fargo respects the seriousness of our country’s ongoing debate on immigration reform,” Wells Fargo spokesman John Roehm said in a statement. “However, we do not, as a corporation, take positions on public policy issues that do not directly affect our company’s ability to serve customers and support team members.”
Wells Fargo launched a new effort in April to gain Latino customers by educating them about banking in 13 cities. The bank also runs Spanish-language ads targeting potential Latino customers. Meanwhile, they have not responded to appeals from immigration advocacy groups to divest their money from the companies, Nammacher said.
“The immigrant community has no intention of standing by while Wells Fargo finances their own demise using their own deposits,” he said. “Companies like Wells Fargo that are entrenched in our broken immigration system, they’re either going to be a part of propagating the problem or they’ll be responsible and divest from anti-immigrant corporations and politicians.”
The Wells Fargo Employee PAC has donated to politicians who have proposed crackdowns on unauthorized immigration, including Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), an advocate of more immigration enforcement, and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.). Bachmann has struck a hard-line stance on undocumented immigration during her campaign for the GOP presidential nomination, promising in a Saturday speech to impose stricter border enforcement if she wins the presidency.
Of course, not all immigrants oppose increasing border enforcement or deportations, or favor easier paths to citizenship. But among Latinos, 38 percent of whom are immigrants and 19 percent are undocumented, a strong majority oppose crackdowns on unauthorized immigration, according to 2010 estimates from the Pew Hispanic Center. Most Latinos also support paths to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already in the country, according to the Pew report, a move that politicians like Bachmann decry as amnesty.
One protester, Ibrahim Nur, said he was especially angry that the Wells Fargo Employee PAC donated money to Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), who opposes comprehensive immigration reform. Nur became a citizen six years ago, but wants to see changes to the immigration system so he can more easily bring his family over from Somalia.
Nur opened an account at Wells Fargo in 2003, and worked there as a security guard from 2006 until earlier this year. But he may take his money elsewhere now that he knows the Wells Fargo Employee PAC donates money to politicians who oppose immigration reform.
“All of the money that I was paying, I realized that was going to a politician named John Kline, who is against immigration stuff,” Nur said. “It takes forever to bring [family] here because of the laws that we have here. … This politician makes it even harder.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated that Wells Fargo is a stockholder in two of the largest for-profit detention companies. It has been corrected to indicate that Wells Fargo uses its mutual funds to invest in the companies. The story has also been updated to include a comment from Wells Fargo.