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MoneyGram Illegally Blocks Money Transfers from Americans to Family & Loved Ones Abroad

Today, Muslim Advocates and the Yemeni American Merchants Association (YAMA) sent a letter to MoneyGram International, Inc. – a leading, global money transfer company – asking it to immediately rectify discriminatory practices that unjustifiably prevent Americans from transferring funds to family members residing in countries with predominantly Muslim populations.

As explained in the letter, “MoneyGram provides a vitally important service to billions of individuals around the globe.  All we ask is that MoneyGram treat all individuals equally, regardless of their ethnicity, national origin or religion.”

The letter highlights two alarming cases that demonstrate the impact of MoneyGram’s actions. First, Debra Yassine, a U.S. citizen living in Washington, D.C., has transferred money once a month, every month, to her ailing mother-in-law in Beirut, Lebanon. As her mother-in-law’s maladies continue to worsen with age and the costs of her medications increase, she has become increasingly reliant on these monthly transfers of funds from her son and his wife. Last March, however, MoneyGram – without any warning or explanation – declined Ms. Yassine’s monthly transfer. When questioned, MoneyGram employees were evasive about the reasons for the denial, and instead subjected Ms. Yassine and her husband to a barrage of personal and invasive questions. Even after providing all this information, MoneyGram refused to process the transfer. When pressed further, one employee finally told them that the company had an “alert” on people sending money to the Middle East.

Second, long-time New York City resident Mohamed Saleh sent monthly transfers to his two children, ages 20 and 12, in Yemen, a country still in the grip of a brutal civil war. The children greatly rely on the transfers for food and other necessities and have only become more reliant on them after Mr. Saleh’s wife passed away last year. Yet, MoneyGram has refused to process his transfers since August 2018.  And, as with Ms. Yassine, MoneyGram has provided no explanation for its actions.

The letter makes clear that Ms. Yassine and Mr. Saleh are not exceptions – Muslim Advocates and YAMA have heard from individuals all across the country who have been subjected to MoneyGram’s discriminatory treatment. Taken together, the letter highlights that MoneyGram’s disturbing conduct is not limited to a few particular employees or locations; rather the company is systematically denying money transfers involving residents of countries with predominantly Muslim populations.

“MoneyGram’s systematic and illegal denials of money transfers must end,” said Matthew Callahan, staff attorney at Muslim Advocates.  “There is no reason for MoneyGram’s actions.”

“The systematic denials of money wires by Yemeni Americans and Muslim Americans to the Middle East is unjust and unconstitutional for an American company.  YAMA calls for an end of this practice that has further hurt Yemeni family members devastated by the ongoing war in Yemen,” said Dr. Debbie Almontaser, board member of YAMA.