October 9, 2006, - 5:23 pm

Western Union: Hawala for Illegal Alien Paymasters

**** UPDATE: I forgot to start this out with the most important part: This is the story of doing the job some Americans just won’t do. The Arizona Attorney General is doing the job against Western Union that one American, , head of ICE (Immigration & Customs Enforcement), just won’t do–investigating the pay scheme that gets illegal aliens smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico. Stopping the money flow will aid in stopping the illegal alien flow. END UPDATE ****
How do illegal alien smugglers get paid? They get money wired to them in Mexico from others here in the U.S. . . . VIA WESTERN UNION.
That’s right Western Union is the legal Hawala (Islamic money transfer system) for illegal aliens, only in this case it’s not necessarily Muslim.

Today’s Wall Street Journal (subscription only) has a very interesting article about something we’ve been hearing about. Western Union makes millions in the illegal alien trade, and it’s not just from aliens wiring money back to relatives back in Mexico. A lot of it is from relatives or employers of illegal aliens here wiring the money to Mexico to the heads of smuggling cartels, once they determine that their smugglee is here.
According to the Wall St. Journal, the brave person doing the crackdown is a State official and predictably, Western Union is upset over this loss of a huge source of its revenue. A few excerpts:

In late September, Arizona General Terry Goddard moved to block electronic payments to traffickers obtaining warrants to seize all Western Union money transfers of at least $500 going to the Mexican state of Sonora, directly south of the Arizona border, and originating in 29 U.S. state–including California, New York, Florida, Illinois and Georgia. . . .
In court filings, Western Union called Arizona’s use of the warrants a “threat of incalculable damages.” The crackdown is harming innocent people, whose money is being held indefinitely, Western Union says. “May of the people are just frightened,” Chief Executive Christina Gold said in an interview. “Some of them don’t speak Engllish and are not sure what’s going on.”

Uh, Christina and Western Union, ya think the fact they don’t speak our language is a hint they ain’t legal?
The Journal also reports that Western Union clerks were caught taking bribes in exchange for accepting fake IDs from a recipient and

[an Arizona] audit found that in certain outlets more than half of the recipients of money transfers used fake Social Security cards to pick up funds.

So what Does Western Union say? Basically, screw you, America:

Western Union says there isn’t much it can do about money tranferred legally over its network but that may be part of an illegal enterprise. “We are not . . . law enforcement agents,” Western Union said in a statement.

And Western Union whines Arizona laws restricting money transfers are “exceedingly strict.” as they should be.
Western Union moved $42 billion around the globe, last year, and takes a good cut of what it moves. But apparently, that’s not enough. Western Union was just spun off from its parent company, and it’s desperate to get its share price up. More of what I’ve been writing about with regard to capitalism without limits. Western Union is bummed out that since the Arizona AG has been enforcing the law,

money transfers year-to-date between the U.S. and Mexico grew only 3% compared with a year earlier.

Arizona officials estimate that 95% of illegal aliens crossing the border contract with smuggling cartels in Mexico, charging $1,600 per alien they bring over the border. When their friends or employers wire payment to Mexico, they are released to their custody.

Over a two-month period in early 2005, $28 million was wired from the U.S. to Sonora . . . . The Arizona Attorney General says $19 million–or 67% of the total–was wired to just eight Western Union agents [out of 201 licensed in the area] in five Mexican cities . . .–all “launching pads on or near the Arizona border where groups of immigrants gather to cross illegally.
In the Sonoran city of Altar, a bustling town 50 miles south of Sasabe, a border village that is a popular crossing point, one Western Union customer received $68,000 in 34 payments over a two-month period, or $2,000 every two days. “The apparent brazen activity of pick-up operators in northern Sonora is no doubt due to the complete lack of law-enforcement investigation of wires sent to those locations,” states an affidavit sworn by Daniel Kelly, a financial cimres investigator with the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
Spurred by those findings, Mr. Goddard, that state Attorney General, early this year began ordering Western Union to fingerprint recipients, demand multiple forms of identification and take other precautions. Frustrated that transfers to coyotes appeared to be shifting outside Arizona, Mr. Goddard moved to begin seizing transfers from other states in September. Western Union responded by seeking court relief.
“It’s gone from ‘amicable’ and ‘in discussions’ to bringing this to court,” says Mr. Goddard, who adds he still hopes to negotiate a settlement with Western Union.

We hope Western Union doesn’t just get to pay a few mill, Wal-Mart style, and get away with it. Arizona allowed Western Union to pay $3 million to end a state probe regarding agents who accepted fake or illegible ID cards.
**** UPDATE: Reader T.S. writes:

Dear Deb,
If you divide the $28 million sent to Mexico for the $1,600 per head fee for smuggling you get 17,500 more illegal aliens committing crimes, lowering wages and voting in liberals in a 2 month period. Those are impressive numbers.
Keep up the good work.

Yes, negatively impressive, unfortunately.

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5 Responses

The local Walmart (newington, ct) has Western Union service (at the customer service desk) where the rate to Mexico is discounted below the rates for anywhere else (including the US).

sandy on October 9, 2006 at 8:38 pm

now please enlighten me what does Howla has to do with Mexican transfer. How is it even related to Mexican money transfer and an islamic word and what is the point of such association

thirdgoat on October 10, 2006 at 11:29 am

I will try to stop by the Walmart I was talking about today. It’s in Newington, Connecticut.

sandy on October 10, 2006 at 12:06 pm

Are you aware that Bank of America does it for FREE? A lot of advertising was done to promote the goodwill of the bank as well, at least for a short period. Add to the fact that they get $30-something for ANY overdraft, you can see they make BILLIONS in luring the illegal/visa immigrants to bank with them.

Grateful1 on October 10, 2006 at 11:50 pm

Hi Debbie,
I used to work at the Service Desk for a discount department store chain in Denver, Colorado and 99% of our business in wire transfers (Western Union) were Mexican & South American immigrants (most Mexican, and most likely illegal immigrants) who used Mexican Consulate IDs to conduct the transfers. I will say that most of the receivers shared last names with the senders of my customers at the time (3 years ago).
I can honestly say I never lied about the kind of ID used – IIRC I always signified Mexico, or Consulate ID with the number used – never stated it was a driver’s license or something like that. I often wondered why these people didn’t get caught sending hundreds of dollars to relatives back “home”…
I don’t know what Western Union can do to curb this activity because as an agent most that I know of aren’t really overseen by Western Union itself. I think it would take a huge effort on the part of individual store owners that contract with Western Union (perhaps that is why they think they’re safe – plausible deniability type stuff). Not that it can’t be done, especially in free-standing Western Union owned and operated outlets.
Literally thousands of dollars were passed through our store to destinatons in Mexico, and other parts of South America every week. It bothered me greatly because most of these people were likely illegal immigrants, and it hurts our economy for this to keep happening, especially if these funds are gained by breaking the laws to work in the first place…
Somehow, we’ve got to figure out how to stop this. Many don’t realize how much this really costs our country in “hidden” fees and costs.

Redhead8 on October 11, 2006 at 1:56 am

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