Arm Yourself With *FACTS*

John A. Quayle blueoval57 at VERIZON.NET
Sun Nov 25 20:56:04 MST 2007

  Some Facts Most American's Should
DESPERTATELY Be Doing Their Best
To Find Out About.

A series of three articles assembled by Michael Cutler

<mailto:MCutler007 at>MCutler007 at | Thu, 22 Nov 2007 12:53:16 EST

Hi Gang:

I have attached an article below that appears in 
today's edition of the New York Times.  Below 
that article I have attached two older news 
articles that helps explain the way that Western 
Union and its heretofore parent corporation, 
First Data Corporation have taken an extremely 
active role in politics and lobbying especially 
where immigration is concerned.  These articles 
could give new meaning to the expression, "Follow the money!"

The issue of illegal immigration is multi-faceted 
with many areas of concern.  As I have pointed 
out on previous occasions, immigration 
[especially uncontrolled illegal immigration] 
significantly impacts everything from the 
economy, the environment, education and health 
care to criminal justice and national security.

Illegal immigration, for the most part starts out 
with the exploitation of vulnerable people.  The 
people I am referring to are the citizens of 
countries such as Mexico who seek to flee their 
home countries for better economic opportunities 
in the United States.  Mexico is one of the 
wealthiest countries in Latin America yet, like 
the book a "Tale of Two Cities" Mexico is a 
country where, for the most part, you are either 
extremely wealthy or poor.  In Mexico, when you 
are poor you are really poor!  NAFTA further 
exacerbated the situation for many of Mexico's 
farmers in the mid 1990's driving many of 
Mexico's farmer's into bankruptcy and off of 
their farms.  Left with no farm and no means of 
earning a living, many headed north to seek to 
provide for themselves and their families by 
crossing the Rio Grande illegally and seeking 
illegal employment in the United States.

When the president of Mexico and other elitists 
in that country see in their poverty-stricken 
countrymen the most valuable export that their 
country produces!  I want you to stop and think 
about that statement:  the government of a nation 
looks at their own citizen and sees them as a 
commodity sort of like the way that a dairy 
farmer look at his cattle!  When these people 
cross the border that is supposed to separate the 
United States for Mexico, they do so in order to 
seek employment.  It has been estimated that 
presently some 10% of Mexico's citizens are 
living in the United States.  Last year these 
illegal aliens wired more than 20 billion dollars 
from the United States to Mexico.  That is the 
visible money.  Many additional billions of 
dollars were moved from the United States to 
Mexico covertly.  The majority of these illegal 
aliens are young, able-bodied men who might seek 
to create an insurrection if they did not see in 
the United States and opportunity to improve 
their financial situation.  America is, in effect, Mexico's relief valve.

Because the government of Mexico sees this human 
flood as providing a win-win situation for 
Mexico, the government of Mexico has been eager 
to encourage this northern movement of their 
citizens.   A couple of years ago the government 
of Mexico prepared a comic book-style pamphlet to 
explain to its poor citizens how to prepare for 
the dangerous trek north and how to evade the 
Border Patrol.  The Mexican government has since 
made videos to explain this material to their 
citizens who plan to head to the United 
States.  Medical care was even provided to make 
it more likely that these desperate people would 
survive the journey and be strong and well enough 
to secure a job so that they could send money home.

The alien smugglers or "coyotes" are also eager 
to exploit these desperate human beings, often 
charging them outrageous sums of money for 
services rendered and often rob these people, 
beat the men, rape the women and force them to 
act as "mules" carrying narcotics across the border concealed on their person.

These illegal aliens are valued as employees by 
unscrupulous employers not because they are 
mystically better workers than Americans or 
resident aliens but because they are willing to 
work for substandard wages under conditions that are often illegally dangerous.

These desperate people are then often exploited 
by so-called advocacy groups and lawyers (some 
aren't even really lawyers but are rip-off 
artists).  As is the case with the Mexican 
government, all of these individuals see these 
people as being income generators.  Unscrupulous 
landlords will often crowd illegal aliens into 
tiny apartments.  As an INS agent have seen 20 
adult men occupy an apartment that was intended 
to be occupied by a family of four.  These people 
lived in abject squalor with mattresses laid one 
next to another with virtually no furniture and 
filthy pots and pans sitting on a food-encrusted 
stove.  I encountered a phenomenon in many of 
such apartments that was euphemistically referred 
to as a "moving wall."  The first time I heard 
that term from a seasoned agent I had no idea 
what he was talking about, so he led me into a 
bedroom and turned on the light.  There were so 
many roaches and other assorted insects that 
began scrambling up and down the wall that it 
looked like a major highway during the rush hour 
or, for those of you who are familiar with New 
York's subway system, it looked very much like 
Grand Central Station at the peak of the rush 
hour!  The wall did indeed appear to be moving 
because there were few spaces where your could 
see the actual surface of the wall, mostly all 
you could see were the frantically scurrying 
insects!  The stench of the filth of the 
apartment remained in my nostrils for days.  One 
of my former partners used to call it the "stench of poverty."

These apartments were the ultimate "crash pads" 
and often people would sleep in shifts, leaving 
their dirty clothing in the corner of the bedroom 
to be worn time and again without washing.

The goal of these illegal aliens was simple, live 
as frugally as possible and send every last penny 
home. The open borders advocates often talk about 
the illegal aliens who pay taxes.  When you 
confront them and say that many work 'off the 
books' and therefore pay no income taxes, or when 
they do work on the books with a stolen identity 
they generally declare as many as a dozen 
dependants meaning that not only do not pay 
income tax but receive an "Earned tax credit" at 
years end, these advocates for amnesty and 
"Comprehensive Immigration Reform" generally 
switch gears and talk about sales tax.  In my 
experience, the average illegal alien makes every 
possible effort to send as much money home and 
between their relatively low earnings and 
motivation to send money back home, they are 
spending as little as possible in our 
country.  And this is where First Data and its 
subsidiary, Western Union as well as other money 
remitters come in.   These companies are the 
silent partners of the illegal aliens who wire 
money home from the United States.  Their profit 
are directly linked to the number of illegal 
aliens who enter our country, get jobs and send 
money out of the United States.  Often criminal 
aliens such as drug traffickers use the services 
of such remitters to send money back home.  The 
law requires that when an individual moves more 
than ten thousand dollars he (she) has to fill 
out a Currency Transaction Report (CTR) to 
document the source of the money and the fact 
that the person in question moved that quantity of cash.

Needless to say, drug dealers are not comfortable 
with the idea of proclaiming that they were 
moving hundreds of thousands of dollars in 
proceeds from the sale of cocaine, heroin or some 
other such poison, so they have their workers 
move just under the ten thousand dollar limit, 
multiple times under false names.  I spent nearly 
half of my career as an INS special agent 
assigned to working with other agencies in 
conducting investigations of drug trafficking 
organizations that had alien in the structure of 
those criminal organizations.  In New York that 
accounted for nearly every major drug trafficking 
organization.  When I was assigned to the Unified 
Intelligence Division of the DEA from 1988 until 
1991 I did an analysis of the arrest records of 
the DEA and found that in New York City some 60% 
of the defendants who were arrested by DEA were 
identified as being "foreign born."  During the 
course of many of the investigations I became 
involved with, we often found the people who were 
moving the money would go from bank to post 
office to Western Union Office, each time wiring 
just under the magic ten thousand dollar amount 
back home.  The technical name for this sort of 
activity, which constituted money laundering, was 
"structuring."  However, for whatever reason, the 
street term law enforcement came to use to 
describe this activity was "Smurfing" presumably 
named after the children's cartoon show.

Regardless of the source of money, the remitters 
made their profit just the same.  As someone once 
said to me, "All money is green."

Western Union is the apparent lead outfit in this 
business and clearly want to protect its source 
of income.  A couple of years ago when 
Congressman Tom Tancredo proposed taxing 
remittances Charles Fote, the then CEO of First 
Data moved his company's headquarter from Atlanta 
to Denver, apparently heeding the advice from the 
movie, "The Godfather" to "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer!"

By spinning off Western Union as a totally 
separate entity that only would make a profit 
from remittances, it has to be presumed that they 
would become even more adamant about growing 
their business which would derive the great 
majority of it profits from illegal aliens sending money home.

It should be noted that Mexico is certainly not 
the only country that is so motivated to send its 
citizens to the United States for the purpose of 
receiving remittances and other sources of 
money.  A World Bank Report prepared in 2006 
noted that an estimated 10% of Guatemala's 
citizens are also living in the United 
States.  That study also said that as of 2005 ten 
percent of Guatemala's GDP was accounted for by 
remittances wired home from the United States by 
Guatemalan citizens who are living and working 
illegally in the United States. This was up 
drastically from three percent just four years earlier in 2001.

You can read this World Bank report on remittances to Guatemala at:


Page 7 of this report contains a passage that is 
worth reading, I have attached it below:

The primary objective of remittances is regular 
support of household expenditures. Most migrants 
send remittances on a monthly basis (around 60 
percent of the households and 70 percent of the 
volume), which indicates that these flows are 
meant for regular economic support.In addition to 
these regular flows, seasonal peaks occur during 
Mother’s day, summer vacations, and December 
holidays. Funds are intended for recipients’ 
consumption (food, appliances, transportation, 
and communication), intermediate consumption 
(such as home maintenance and rent), savings and 
investment, as well as social investment (such as 
health and education). A marginal portion appears 
to support community works through Hometown 
Associations,11 but data are not available to 
confirm this. Finally, a portion of the 
remittance goes to pay the coyote, the person who 
helps an undocumented migrant cross the U.S. 
borders, if the migrant has used such means of migration.

As a former INS special agent and, in fact, a 
member of the first Anti-Smuggling Unit (ASU) in 
New York, it is absolutely mind-boggling that the 
World Bank would use such an absurdly deceptive 
and innocuous term to describe a "Coyote" or 
alien smuggler as simply being someone who helps 
undocumented migrants to cross the U.S. 
border.  Of all of the criminals I have 
encountered in my career, alien smugglers are 
among the most pernicious.  We had cases where 
they would extort additional money from the 
families of aliens that they smuggled only to 
deliver a dead body to the family after they 
received their payment.  The often rape young 
girls for sport and will move any cargo, human or 
other, for a price.  This activity constitutes a 
serious crime on many levels, yet the report 
makes it sound as though coyotes are part 
tour-guide, part social worker!  Incidentally, 
there is a distinct reason that aliens smugglers 
are referred to as Coyotes.  Illegal aliens are 
also given a nickname, they are often called, 
"Pollos" or "chickens."  We all know what a four 
legged coyote eats for lunch; chickens!

This is purely about money.  Period.

What is utterly outrageous is that Western Union 
has contaminated the immigration debate with lots 
of money, money that they earned by moving the 
money of those who acquired that money by 
violating our immigration laws as well as other 
laws. The money that Western Union is pumping 
into the debate is being used to push an 
agenda-Comprehensive Immigration Reform. While it 
would represent a disaster for our nation from so 
many perspectives, as still more illegal alien 
enter our country and seek to send money home, 
Western Union's profits will continue to soar. 
The impact of ever increasing numbers of illegal 
aliens on our nation however, is anything but 
beneficial. The importation of cheap labor and 
the attendant exportation of U.S. currency 
hammers our economy, drives down wages, and 
significantly harms national 
security.  Comprehensive Immigration Reform that 
Western Union has so emphatically advocated would 
represent among other things a major threat to 
national security, which is why I came to refer 
to the McCain-Kennedy Comprehensive Immigration 
Reform Bill as being th "Terrorist Assistance and 
Facilitation Act of 2007. As I have often noted 
this is the case because USCIS would have been 
mandated to process a minimum of 100,000 
applications per day, each and every day, of 
aliens who by virtue of being undocumented cannot 
reliably establish their true identities 
including their true nationalities. The Nada 
Prouty case involving an alien who committed 
immigration benefit fraud that enabled her to 
become an FBI agent and then an analyst for the 
CIA although she has family members that are 
associated with Hezbollah and of which I have 
recently written extensively, should make it 
clear how the inept and corrupt bureaucracy at 
USCIS endangers national security. Comprehensive 
Immigration Reform would simply overwhelm an 
agency that is already unable to cope with its workload.

Clearly Western Union is motivated by profit and 
nothing else. Every business exists to be as 
profitable as possible. However, when the profit 
motive of a company has severe national security 
implications and the potential to do other 
serious harm to our country, the government needs 
to step in to protect our nation and our citizens 
from the unbridled greed and avarice that 
motivates such a company to the detriment of the 
United States. The problem is that increasingly, 
campaign contributions can persuade politicians 
to make decisions that favor those with the deep 
pockets. Western Union has been working 
tirelessly to encourage ever increasing numbers 
of illegal aliens to enter our country. 
Meanwhile, as is the case with the others 
involved in the exploitation of illegal aliens, 
Western Union is hardly a benevolent force where 
the illegal alien community is concerned, 
charging maximum rates as was documented in the 
articles below. You will not find altruism at 
work here!  With so many companies that are 
gaining so much financially by the human tidal 
wave of illegal aliens that have crashed upon our 
nation's shores this past decade, it is clear 
that these greedy corporations have the huge 
financial resources to push their greed-motivated agendas.

We the People must have our voices heard by our 
politicians. We must vote and encourage all the 
people we know to vote and create an ongoing 
dialogue with our elected representatives. We 
need to counter the efforts of Western Union and 
others who encourage even more illegal immigration.

We the People can turn this around. We must all 
become involved in the political process, 
reaching our to our elected representatives. We 
must be supportive of those rare members of 
Congress and the Senate who have made it clear 
that they want to secure our borders against 
illegal aliens and create an immigration system 
that possesses true integrity. These politicians 
are worth of a positive phone call, letter or 
e-mail.  They most certainly should also be 
supported financially by all of us. While we are 
on the topic of financial support, I would also 
urge you to support advocacy organizations that 
you believe also represent our best interests on this critical issue.

Obviously we must also make our opposition known 
to those politicians who seek to open the borders 
and do all but declare anyone born on the planet 
earth to be a United States citizen!

We the People have been instrumental in a number 
of recent, highly significant incidents. The 
defeat of "Comprehensive Immigration Reform," the 
defeat of the "Dream Act" and New York Governor 
Spitzer's realization that he could not get away 
with his insane plan to provide illegal aliens 
with driver' licenses show what we can do when we get in involved!

This is how democracy is supposed to function. 
This is what every soldier who has fought in 
every war since the American Revolution has 
fought for. We owe it to them for their valiant 
efforts and we owe it to our children and their children!

Democracy is not a spectator sport!

Lead, follow or get out of the way!

-michael cutler-


The New York Times

November 22, 2007

Border Crossings

Western Union Empire Moves Migrant Cash Home

WASHINGTON, Nov. 21 ? To glimpse how migration is 
changing the world, consider Western Union, a 
fixture of American lore that went bankrupt 
selling telegrams at the dawn of the Internet age 
but now earns nearly $1 billion a year helping 
poor migrants across the globe send money home.

Migration is so central to Western Union that 
forecasts of border movements drive the company’s 
stock. Its researchers outpace the 
Bureau in tracking migrant locations. Long 
synonymous with Morse code, the company now 
advertises in Tagalog and Twi and runs promotions 
for holidays as obscure as Phagwa and Fiji Day. 
Its executives hail migrants as “heroes” and once 
tried to oust a congressman because of his push 
for tougher 

“Global migration is the cornerstone of how we’ve 
grown,” said Christina A. Gold, Western Union’s chief executive.

With five times as many locations worldwide as 
Burger King and 
combined, Western Union is the lone behemoth 
among hundreds of money transfer companies. 
Little noticed by the public and seldom studied 
by scholars, these businesses form the 
infrastructure of global migration, a force 
remaking economics, politics and cultures across the world.

Last year migrants from poor countries sent home 
$300 billion, nearly three times the world’s foreign aid budgets combined.

Western Union’s dominance of the industry casts 
it in a host of unlikely new roles: as a force in 
development economics, a player in American 
immigration debates and a target of contrasting attacks.

Its unparalleled reach gives millions of migrants 
a safe way to transmit money, and may even 
increase the amounts sent. But critics have long 
complained about its fees, which can run from 
about 4 percent to 20 percent or more. And the 
company’s lobbying for immigrant-friendly laws 
has raised the ire of people who say it profits 
from, or even promotes, illegal immigration.

Western Union tracks migrants so closely that it 
has made pitches to illegal immigrants just 
released from detention camps. Its agent in 
Panama offered customers legal aid to keep them from being deported.

After settling a damaging lawsuit that accused it 
of hiding large fees, Western Union set out a few 
years ago to recast its image, portraying itself 
as the migrants’ trusted friend. It has spent 
more than $1 billion on marketing over the past 
four years, selectively cut prices and charged 
into American politics, donating to immigrants’ 
rights groups and advocating a path to legalization for illegal immigrants.

While some migrant groups still complain of 
predatory pricing, the company has won unlikely praise.

“Western Union has become a company that values 
and protects its customers,” said Matthew J. 
Piers, the Chicago lawyer who sued the company 
over its fees. “Nobody was more surprised at the 
change than me, because I was Western Union critic Numero Uno.”

Western Union’s zealous pursuit of migrants can 
be seen in a government office in Manila, where a 
half million Filipinos a year wait to have their 
papers processed before leaving for overseas 
jobs. Everything in the waiting room is labeled 
“Western Union”: the backs of the chairs, the 
tops of the desks, the bottom of the queue sign 
and the front of the menu in the adjacent 
cafeteria. The walls are even painted Western Union yellow.

The Philippines requires each outbound migrant to 
attend a predeparture seminar. Western Union paid 
to offer migrants instructions on sending money 
home. “We tell them about the services of Western 
Union,” said Steve Peregrino, the marketing 
director in the Philippines, “with the basic idea 
of seeking out Western Union when they go 
abroad.” In and around the waiting room, reviews are positive.

Ernald Vincent Mendoza, a restaurant supervisor 
in Saudi Arabia, dismissed his wife’s argument 
that the company’s pricing hurt the poor. Though 
banks are cheaper, the money can take a week to 
arrive, he said, while Western Union sends it 
instantly. “If they have good quality and 
service, you have to pay for that,” he said.

Emmanuel Ellorian, a waiter in Dubai, said 
Western Union agents came to the hotel where he 
worked and processed the transfers there. “If any 
of the Filipino clubs have an event,” he said, 
“one of the sponsors is Western Union.”

A Telegraph Giant Evolves

Western Union’s founders set out in 1851 to build 
the first telegraph giant. A decade later, they 
had linked the coasts, a feat celebrated in a 
Zane Grey novel and a Hollywood film, both called 
“Western Union.” Airmail and faxes left telegrams 
obsolete, and the company went bankrupt in 1992.

It emerged two years later with a focus on its 
money transfer service and was acquired in 1995 
by the Colorado corporation First Data. Flush 
times followed. Fueled by the surge in migration, 
international money transfers were growing by 20 percent a year.

In 1998, Mr. Piers sued the company, alleging 
that Western Union and a rival, MoneyGram, 
deceived customers with advertisements like “Send 
$300 to Mexico for $15,” since the companies 
typically made much more (in this case an 
additional $25) by setting foreign exchange rates 
to their advantage. While denying any wrongdoing, 
the companies paid millions to settle the case.

Western Union appeared “money oriented” and 
“cold,” warned an internal marketing document 
that called for a more empathetic image. The 
goal, as one plan put it, was to capture a “share 
of mind” and a “share of heart” to preserve a “share of wallet.”

Having once stressed efficiency (“the fastest way 
to send money”), Western Union now emphasizes the 
devotion the money represents. One poster pairs a 
Filipino nurse in London with her daughter back 
home in cap and gown, making Western Union an 
implicit partner in the family’s achievements. 
“Sending so much more than money” is a common tag line.

The company sponsors hundreds of ethnic 
festivals, concerts and sporting events, from 
cricket matches for Indians in Dubai to sack 
races for Jamaicans in Queens. Last year it paid 
a Filipino pop star, Jim Paredes, to record a 
Tagalog song urging migrants to send money home. 
It paid the producers of a Bollywood film, 
“Namastey London,” for a scene in which a Western 
Union wire transfer helps rescue the heroine.

The Western Union agent in Panama played the 
rescuer’s role himself. With many of his 
customers illegal immigrants ? mostly fromm 
Colombia ? he put three lawyers on retainer and 
started a radio show. The lawyers answered 
callers’ questions and scheduled free appointments to get them legalized.

“Every time an immigrant is forced outside the 
country, we lose a potential customer,” said the 
agent, Jaime Lacayo, who provided the legal 
services for two years and still runs the radio 
show. “We have participated in many marriages of 
foreigners marrying Panamanian ladies, because 
that is the best way to legalize your status.”

A Global Operation

Western Union boasts of 320,000 locations 
worldwide. Many agents are large organizations, 
like the Chinese postal system or grocery store 
chains. (About 60 percent of Western Union’s 
person-to-person transfers occur wholly outside 
the United States.) But companies also battle 
block by block for trusted local figures.

Among them is Michael Lee, 35, who owns an 
electronics store called World Top Communications 
in New York’s Chinatown. Sharing a building with 
a “lupus and tumor consultant,” on a block of 
East Broadway that smells of dried shrimp, he was 
told by Western Union to expect a few hundred transactions a month.

He now does 100,000 a year, he said. Mr. Lee, who 
earns about $2.50 per transaction, is so 
enthusiastic he persuaded his landlord to paint 
the building yellow, and the company donated $16,000 worth of paint.

Many of his customers are in the country 
illegally. Mr. Lee, who was once an illegal 
immigrant, said his business fell by about 40 
percent last spring after a series of nationwide 
immigration raids. “A lot of people don’t have 
green cards ? they are afraid,” he said.

Salo Eduardo Levy, Western Union’s Mexico 
director, echoed that theme at a September 
meeting of industry executives. “We have 
customers calling agents before they go: ‘Is it safe? Is La Migra around?’”

A 2006 survey by the Inter-American Development 
Bank found that illegal immigrants made up 41 
percent of the Latin Americans in the United 
States who used money transfer companies.

Western Union says it does not know what share of 
its customers are illegal immigrants, but at 
times it has made pitches directly to them. As 
Central Americans surged across the Texas border 
in 1999, an overflowing federal detention center 
bused them to a homeless shelter in Brownsville, 
the Ozanam Center. Western Union sponsored a 
lunch there, dispensing T-shirts, bandannas and 
fliers in Spanish with the company’s toll-free telephone number.

Western Union also held marketing events around 
the same time for people deported from the United 
States to Honduras and El Salvador.

“They would arrive in a special holding area, and 
we would have an agent in there ? a yyoung lady 
in tight jeans, tight T-shirt” to promote Western 
Union products, said a former company official 
who spoke only on the condition of anonymity. “We 
knew that within a week they would be back on their way to the U.S.”

Fred Niehaus, a company vice president, said, “I 
can tell you that’s something the company would not do now.”

Immigration and Politics

Western Union’s views on immigration have brought 
conflicts with 
Tancredo, the Republican congressman who 
represents the Denver suburb where the company 
has its headquarters, Three years ago, when Mr. 
Tancredo, a fierce critic of illegal immigration, 
proposed taxing the money that migrants send, 
First Data formed a political action committee to drive him from office.

“We’re tired of his antics,” Mr. Niehaus told The 
Rocky Mountain News. “We’re opting for change.”

After winning re-election, Mr. Tancredo attacked 
Western Union for co-sponsoring a Spanish guide 
that he said promoted illegal immigration. The 
guide said that schools and clinics would not 
check migrants’ papers and advised them to 
“always carry the name and number of an attorney.”

Mr. Tancredo, who is running for president, said 
the company’s activities occupied “a gray area” 
between aggressive marketing and “aiding and abetting illegal immigration.”

“Western Union wants to encourage illegal 
immigration in order to expand the number of 
people in their market,” he said. “Believe me, if 
I were president, I would ask the Justice Department to look into it.”

In 2004, Charles T. Fote, then First Data’s 
chairman, gave a speech calling for 
“comprehensive” reform, a term used by supporters 
of legalization plans for illegal immigrants.

The company sponsored public forums to promote 
the idea and donated $100,000 to a group 
unsuccessfully fighting Proposition 200 in 
Arizona, which requires proof of citizenship from 
people seeking to vote or collect certain public benefits.

As the debate moved to Washington, Western Union 
gave money to many groups supporting legalization 
plans. The United States Chamber of Commerce 
received “in the high six figures,” a Chamber 
official said, while an Illinois group used some 
Western Union money to bring busloads of 
immigrants to Capitol Hill. When a bipartisan 
Senate bill emerged last spring, company 
officials flew to Washington to lobby directly, 
urging Senator 
Salazar, a Colorado Democrat, to support the 
measure. He did, though it ultimately failed.

“Most companies are afraid to speak up,” said 
Frank Sharry, executive director of the National 
Immigration Forum, which has received $40,000 
from Western Union in the past three years. “When 
it got hot, they stayed with it.”

But proponents of stricter border controls see 
commerce, not courage, at play. “Western Union 
has decided that its business model depends on a 
continuing flow of illegal immigrants,” said Mark 
Krikorian, director of the Center for Immigration 
Studies, which advocates low levels of immigration.

Western Union’s latest battle is with the Arizona 
attorney general, Terry Goddard, who in 2004 
began seizing money transfers into Arizona that 
he suspected were meant to pay human smugglers. 
The effort led to hundreds of arrests but also 
froze legitimate transfers and scared away 
customers, costing Western Union millions.

After two years of cooperation, the company 
resisted in court last year when Mr. Goddard, a 
Democrat, expanded his request to cover transfers 
from across the United States to Sonora, Mexico. 
In September, an Arizona court ruled for Western Union.

The company’s resistance won plaudits from 
migrant groups but left Mr. Goddard angry. The 
company is “protecting an illegal enterprise in 
human smuggling,” he said. “It’s outrageous.”

The company spun off from First Data a year ago, 
and it has an estimated global market share of 14 
percent, versus 3 percent for its closest 
competitor, MoneyGram. Though Western Union has 
responded to increased competition by cutting its 
charges, it typically remains the most expensive service.

An Oakland group, the Transnational Institute for 
Grassroots Research and Action, began a boycott 
campaign in September, demanding that Western 
Union lower its prices and increase its corporate 
giving. But it has gained little traction, in 
part because of the company’s recent courtship of migrant groups.

One critic who now gives Western Union grudging 
credit is Donald F. Terry, an official at the 
Inter-American Development Bank. He has spent 
years trying to get more migrants to use banks, 
so they could establish financial histories and qualify for loans.

But banks have not fully welcomed migrants, he 
said, while Western Union and other money 
transfer companies have more locations, better 
hours and agents who know their customers’ language and culture.

“You could say they were ripping people off, or 
you could also say they’re providing a service 
that poor people desperately needed and were 
willing to pay for,” Mr. Terry said. “Any 
consumer company in the world would like to have 
the customer loyalty they have. They’re doing something right.”

Margot Williams contributed research.

2007 <>The New York Times Company


Richard Perry/The New York Times

NEW YORK Many of the customers at Armajeet 
Singh’s market in Queens are immigrants from South Asia.


The Arizona Republic

Wire firm a force in debate over immigration

Western Union builds ties with donations, publications

Chris Hawley
Republic Mexico City Bureau
Mar. 19, 2006 12:00 AM

MEXICO CITY - Every two weeks, Nayeli Toxqui 
pushes her baby stroller down Insurgentes Avenue, 
past the whizzing taxis and the wheezing buses, 
and joins a line of people near a yellow-and-black Western Union sign.

"I'm picking up money from my husband in 
Chicago," she said one recent morning, peering at 
the cashier's booth dispensing money at the back 
of the Elektra appliance store. "I don't work, so 
you could say I depend on la Western."

So do millions of other families and their 
migrant relatives. And in turn, Western Union 
depends on them, as it rides a 10-year wave of 
immigration to record-high profits.

So perhaps it is no surprise that the world's 
biggest money-transfer company and its parent 
firm, First Data Corp., are quietly becoming a 
force in the debate over illegal immigration and border security.

In recent years, Denver-based First Data has 
openly campaigned for immigration reform, which 
could legalize millions of undocumented workers, 
and has created a $10 million "Empowerment Fund" for the same purpose.

It has held seminars on migration law, published 
how-to guides for migrants, sponsored English 
classes, given money to a charity that helps 
Mexican women whose husbands are in the United 
States, and showered immigrant-sending communities with aid.

First Data has stepped up its political donations 
in recent years. It also "directly, actively" 
fought against Arizona's Proposition 200, a First 
Data official told the Mexican Senate in 2004.

Critics accuse the company of encouraging 
immigrants, both legal and illegal. Supporters 
say the company is just trying to connect with 
customers, and that First Data's actions have little effect on migration.

"The economic forces that are driving immigration 
were not created by First Data," said David 
Landsman, executive director of the National 
Money Transmitters Association, which represents wire-transfer companies.

Either way, both sides admit Western Union's fate 
is intimately tied to immigrants and likely will 
become more so after First Data spins off Western 
Union into an independent company later this 
year. First Data currently makes about half of 
its profits from money transfers, with the rest 
coming from its other financial services: 
credit-card processing, ATM networks, and moving money between banks.

But an independent Western Union will be entirely 
dependent on money transfers, and on the migrants who send them.

"As these individuals move, and they continue to 
move around the globe, Western Union will 
continue to benefit," First Data chief executive 
Ric Duques told analysts in a conference call in 
January, according to Bloomberg News.

First Data declined to comment for this article, 
but in news releases, company Web sites and 
speeches, its officials have touted the company's recent activism.

Other wire-transfer companies have ramped up 
their migrant outreach efforts, too. But none has 
invested as much money and energy as First Data, 
or taken as direct a role in the immigration debate.

"They do support immigration reform for 
instrumental reasons - or you can use a more 
crude word, for opportunistic reasons," said 
Manuel Orozco, an expert on remittances at the 
Inter-American Dialogue, a think tank.

"But there is also a genuine reality: the 
money-transfer companies work face to face with 
migrants, and they understand their needs. (First 
Data feels) that they have to have a position on 
this, and it would be hypocritical to stay quiet and let things happen."

Booming business

When First Data acquired Western Union through a 
merger 11 years ago, the telegram company founded 
in 1851 was nearly bankrupt. Its fortunes were about to change.

The United States was on the verge of an 
immigration explosion. The Mexican economy was 
collapsing, even as U.S. businesses were booming and needed labor.

Soon Mexicans were flooding across the border. 
While the number of legal immigrants to the 
United States remained flat at about 650,000, the 
number of illegal border-crossers soared, from 
450,000 annually before 1994 to 750,000 a year during the late 1990s.

Now there are 37 million foreign-born people in 
the United States, including at least 11.5 
million unauthorized migrants, most of them 
Mexican, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

Those migrants send a torrent of money to their 
families. Mexicans in the United States alone 
sent home some $20 billion in 2005, up from $6.6 billion just five years ago.

The increase has been a windfall for 
wire-transfer companies. Western Union, which 
also owns the Vigo and Orlandi Valuta chains, saw 
its revenue nearly double from $2.3 billion in 
2000 to $4.2 billion in 2005. It made $1.3 billion in profit last year.

"Their real key to success is the immigration 
from Third World to Second World and First World 
countries. That is the ultimate secret sauce," 
said Kartik Mehta, an analyst with FTN Midwest Securities.

However, new competitors are moving in. Citigroup 
and Wells Fargo are trying to get into the 
remittance business by persuading migrants to 
open bank accounts, and a raft of smaller 
companies are offering cheaper service.

With competition heating up, wire-transfer 
companies are jealously guarding their client base.

Reaching out

To win points with customers, First Data has 
launched programs to help migrants and their families back home.

The efforts include a series of immigration-law 
seminars called "Western Union La Ley," and a 
directory of immigrant resources called 
"Pasaporte a los Estados Unidos" (Passport to the United States).

The company also sponsored the printing of 
300,000 guides telling Salvadorans how to apply 
for the U.S. Temporary Protected Status program. 
The program gave legal residency to 248,000 
migrants following two earthquakes in El Salvador in 2001.

In 2000 the company formed the First Data Western 
Union Foundation, which is funded by First Data, 
its employees and its agents in other countries.

The foundation has given out more than $16 
million, funding everything from seminars on home 
buying for migrants in Broward County, Fla. to 
English classes at the Chicago and San Antonio 
campuses of the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

It gives money to a legal aid groups and 
organizations like the Massachusetts-based 
Immigrant Learning Center, which along with 
running English classes, produces studies 
"promoting immigrants as assets to America," according to one of its reports.

Some critics say the foundation's work is 
window-dressing designed to distract customers 
from Western Union's high rates. The company's 
fees are consistently higher than its 
competitors, according to Mexico's consumer protection agency.

"The company is washing its face," journalist 
Alberto Najar wrote in Mexico's La Jornada 
newspaper. "Fine. But who do you think charges 
the most to send money from Chicago, Houston, 
Indianapolis, Los Angeles and New York? That's right, Western Union."

Furthermore, some of the foundation's programs 
almost seem to reward migration, say some border-control advocates.

Helping out

In the Mexican state of Oaxaca, the foundation 
gave $250,000 "to provide assistance to women 
living alone because their husbands are working 
in the United States," according to a foundation 
news release.The money helped women build small 
gardens in their back yards to raise extra money, 
said Narcedalia Ramírez Pineda, the vice 
president of the AYU Foundation, which operated 
the program. Women were taught how to install 
drip-irrigation systems and raise poultry, and 
some of the money went toward building a greenhouse.

"First Data was a great help," Ramírez said. 
"We're very satisfied with the solidarity they have shown us."

It also has pledged $1.25 million to the Mexican 
government's 4x1 Program in Zacatecas state. The 
program provides matching funds for each peso 
that migrants invest in small businesses in their hometowns.

That money, presumably, comes through wire transfers.

Another foundation-funded program helps Mexican 
migrants go to U.S. universities "because they 
don't have the documents necessary to go to a 
college and pay tuition as international 
students," First Data's public relations director 
Mario Hernández said during a forum in the Mexican Senate on Nov. 10, 2004.

The foundation made headlines by funding a 
56-page booklet for migrants called "A Survival 
Guide for Newcomers to Colorado."

The guide included legal tips such as, "It's not 
the job of the police to report you to 
Immigration," and listed banks where migrants 
could open accounts with only an ID card issued by the Mexican consulate.

The guide infuriated border-control advocates. In 
a broadcast last year, CNN newsman Lou Dobbs 
called the guide a "how-to guide for illegal aliens."

Soon afterward, the Colorado state government 
yanked the guide from one of its Web sites and 
replaced it with an edited version.

Border-control groups say First Data is 
encouraging immigration to fatten their profits.

"They're promoting whatever is going to enhance 
their bottom line, and if that means encouraging 
mass immigration, that's what they're going to 
do," said Mike McGarry, acting director of the 
Colorado Alliance for Immigration Reform, which 
has opposed First Data's advocacy efforts in its home state.

Political power

On March 3, 2004, First Data leaped into the debate over immigration reform.

During a panel discussion organized by the 
company at the National Press Club in Washington, 
D.C., First Data's then-chief executive, Charlie 
Fote, announced the creation of a $10 million 
"Empowerment Fund" to push for an overhaul of 
U.S. immigration laws, though he gave few details 
of how the money would be used.

"This is a critical issue for our country and our 
consumers," Fote said, according to a company statement.

The company stopped short of calling for the 
legalization of undocumented migrants who already 
are in the United States. But it said the new 
policies should not be "overly burdensome to 
businesses or individuals," and said the 
educational needs of immigrant children need to be respected.

"A new immigration policy must recognize that 
immigrants strengthen the U.S. economy and 
diversify the social fabric of our society," the company's statement said.

Since then, First Data has held panel discussions 
around the country to campaign for immigration 
reform. The company also said it used its money 
to fight Arizona's Proposition 200, a measure 
passed in 2004 that bars illegal immigrants from 
receiving some state services.

"Our company directly, actively and with 
financial support, supported the business, 
political and community groups that opposed this 
proposition," Hernández, the public relations 
director, told lawmakers during the 2004 forum at the Mexican Senate.

First Data did not respond to a Republic request 
for more information about the effort.

First Data also has stepped up its campaign 
donations. The company has spent $247,000 on 
federal elections since 2001, compared to 
$145,000 in the five years before that, according 
to the Center for Responsive Politics.

A political action committee, First Data 
Employees for Responsible Government, has donated 
$128,000 since it was formed in 2000. And that's 
not counting hefty donations by individual 
executives. Fote and his wife, for example, gave 
$46,800 to 32 federal candidates between the 
beginning of 2000 and Fote's retirement in November.

Most of First Data's beneficiaries are members of 
the Senate and House committees on banking and 
financial services. Much of the money also has 
gone directly to the Republican and Democratic 
parties in the form of "soft money" donations.

Left out of the largesse: Republican Rep. Tom 
Tancredo, one of the most vocal 
immigration-control activists, who also happens 
to be First Data's hometown congressman. First 
Data, its PAC and many of its executives gave 
money to Joanna Conti, his Democratic opponent, in the 2004 election.

It is unclear if the $10 million Empowerment Fund 
has gone into campaign donations. First Data 
would not give The Republic details on how that money is being spent.

Attractive cash

Western Union will become even more dependent on 
immigrants after First Data completes a planned 
spin off of the company this year. The spin off 
comes at a critical time, as state governments 
are beginning to take notice of the billions of 
dollars flowing through the wires of money-transfer companies.

Last month, the Georgia House of Representatives 
passed a bill putting a 5 percent tax on wire 
transfers placed by undocumented immigrants. The 
measure would require wire-transfer clerks to 
check the IDs and visas of senders.

Meanwhile, a bill in the Arizona Legislature asks 
voters to approve construction of a border wall 
funded by an 8 percent tax on wire transfers to foreign countries.

As other states consider taxing migrants' wire 
transfers, other money-transfer companies could 
find themselves increasingly drawn into the immigration debate, Orozco said.

"That doesn't mean to say that they are 
pro-illegal immigration," Orozco said. "But their 
position is, 'There is a double standard here, 
let's not be hypocritical and put the burden only 
on the individual (migrant) who comes in here.' "

Reach the reporter at chris 
<mailto:.hawley at>.hawley at


Rocky Mountain News : Printer-friendly story

Fote impact felt around community

By John Rebchook, Rocky Mountain News

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Charlie Fote is credited with being the driving 
force behind bringing First Data's corporate headquarters to the Denver area.

And while Fote's announcement Monday that he's 
stepping down as CEO and chairman of Colorado's 
largest locally based company caught economic 
development leaders by surprise, they expect 
First Data to keep its corporate headquarters here.

"I think that Charlie had in mind establishing 
very deep roots in Colorado and to make this the 
permanent home of First Data," Tom Clark, 
executive vice president of the Metro Denver 
Economic Development Corp., said Monday. 
"However, I think whenever you have a change in a 
CEO, typically the new one has some say where the 
company's headquarters is located. That 
possibility does cause concern to all of us."

Even if the new CEO decided to move, it's 
unlikely the company would look to displace the 
3,000 people who work here, he said. In addition 
to its Greenwood Village headquarters, First Data 
has a large office campus in the Meridian 
International Business Center in Douglas County. 
When it announced plans for the campus, the 
company said it eventually would have a million square feet.

John Lay, president and CEO of the Southeast 
Business Partnership, also said he expects First 
Data to keep its headquarters in Colorado.

"I certainly anticipate that they will," Lay 
said. "I have heard nothing that would cause me to think otherwise."

Both Clark and Lay said Fote has been an ideal business and civic leader.

"He was always plain spoken," Clark said. "He was 
not only Colorado's and metro Denver's biggest 
fan, but also its most vocal critic."

When Fote thought the state and the metro area 
weren't doing enough for education and 
transportation, for example, he didn't mince words, Clark said.

"When he spoke about things, his motives were 
pure," Clark said. "You know he was always 
concerned for the good of the state. That's what 
makes his departure a really sad day."

Lay said he considers Fote a "pillar of the 
community," noting he worked extremely hard to 
pass the FasTracks transportation initiative. 
Fote also had been honored by the local Hispanic 
community, although his views have put Fote at 
odds with Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., who has 
made immigration matters a top issue. Last year, 
Tancredo proposed a tax on billions of dollars 
that are sent to Mexico and other countries by 
companies such Western Union, a subsidiary of 
First Data. Tancredo didn't return a call Monday.

Clark said during the tech crash in the early 
2000s, First Data was practically the only 
company bringing high-paying jobs to the Denver 
area. He estimated that Fote created about 1,000 
jobs during that period, primarily by acquiring companies.

<mailto:rebchookj at>rebchookj at 
or 303-892-5207

© Rocky Mountain News

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