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Somali Immigrants Get Moral Support From Seattle In Push To Restore Remittances

Paula Wissel
Hamdi Abdulle, Executive Director, Somali Youth and Family Club at the Seattle City Council right after resolution was passed.

Local Somali immigrants are continuing to pressure the federal government to allow them to once again send money to relatives back home.

Now, the Seattle City Council has gotten behind their cause.The ability to send remittances , as they’re called, to relatives back in Somalia largely ended a few months ago. That’s  when the last bank still handling the money transfers, the Merchants Bank of California, stopped.

Hamdi Abdulle, Executive Director of Somali Youth and Family Club in south King County, remembers the day the bank announced it would stop doing the money transfers. It was the same day she got a call from a cousin in Somalia asking for money. 

“She was crying from the other end of the line and I felt like helpless,” Abdulle said. 

In the end Abdul says she was able to send her cousin a hundred dollars because small amounts of money are still allowed.

Abdulle says for relatives back in the war torn country, remittances often mean the difference between eating or not.

“The point is that, this is a lifeline for people,this is serious,” she said.

The laws in place that have limited the remittances came about because of the U.S. concern that the money could end up in the hands of terrorists.

But, Abdulle says there’s no guarantee that any money that gets sent overseas won’t end up helping terrorists and Somalis in the U.S. shouldn’t be singled out.

The U.S. Treasury Department and some members of Congress have expressed sympathy for the situation the Somali immigrants are in, but so far, nothing’s been done.

Local immigrants did get a boost of sorts from the Seattle City Council, which passed a resolution today urging Congress to act.

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.