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Arizona Republic almost does expose on Western Union

Chris Hawley of the AZ Republic offers the somewhat surprising article "Wire firm a force in debate over immigration".

It's surprising because in a rare move for the AZ Republic it comes close to reporting the actual truth. They come close to implying that Western Union and their parent company First Data are profiting off illegal immigration, are encouraging illegal immigration, and are corrupting our political system.
...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.

...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.

...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.

...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...

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...

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 Hernandez 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."

..."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.

...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.

...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," Hernandez, the public relations director, told lawmakers during the 2004 forum at the Mexican Senate.

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...
In brief: First Data not only profits off illegal immigration, they encourage massive immigration. I'll leave it to the reader to determine whether what they do qualifies as encouraging illegal immigration. However, note that Proposition 200 was designed to fight illegal immigration, and First Data opposed it.

And, they then donate part of the money they've obtained from those engaging in illegal activity to politicians, including Democrats like Conti.

Immigration · Sun, 03/19/2006 - 11:27 · Importance: 4

Mon, 03/20/2006 - 13:22
Smitty

I'd love to see the herd of CA attys ascend on the CA criminal invasion profiteers and loot away. (first time ever for attorney looting)

I'm looking forward to jury duty!

Mon, 03/20/2006 - 08:47
calypso catteraugus

i agree with k. bove. i am an attorney in los angeles and have been incredibly interested in the recent use of the RICO statutes to fight the employers who flourish from illegal immigration. thanks, lone, for keep us posted on the recent and encouraging developments in this area of the law.

Sun, 03/19/2006 - 15:45
Kevin Bove

Is it no possible for someone to prevail on a RICO action against this company?

Cannot a shareholder file suit against the company to force it to comply with federal law?