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 aol.com>MCutler007 at aol.com | Thu, 22 Nov 2007 12:53:16 EST
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
Mothers 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!
The New York Times
November 22, 2007
Western Union Empire Moves Migrant Cash Home
By JASON DePARLE
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 companys
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
Global migration is the cornerstone of how weve
grown, said Christina A. Gold, Western Unions 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 worlds foreign aid budgets combined.
Western Unions 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
companys 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 Unions 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 wifes argument
that the companys 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 Unions 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 familys 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
rescuers 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 Unions
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 Yorks 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 dont have
green cards ? they are afraid, he said.
Salo Eduardo Levy, Western Unions 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 companys 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 thats something the company would not do now.
Immigration and Politics
Western Unions views on immigration have brought
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.
Were tired of his antics, Mr. Niehaus told The
Rocky Mountain News. Were 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 companys 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 Datas
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,
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 Unions 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 companys resistance won plaudits from
migrant groups but left Mr. Goddard angry. The
company is protecting an illegal enterprise in
human smuggling, he said. Its 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 companys 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 theyre 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. Theyre doing something right.
Margot Williams contributed research.
2007 <http://www.nytco.com/>The New York Times Company
Richard Perry/The New York Times
NEW YORK Many of the customers at Armajeet
Singhs 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
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 arizonarepublic.com>.hawley at arizonarepublic.com.
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 RockyMountainNews.com>rebchookj at RockyMountainNews.com
© Rocky Mountain News
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