One of the primary reasons money transfer tools and offices have always been popular for remittances to Mexico has been the fact that the traditional banking system in the U.S. is very much a closed system to anyone who isn’t already established with formal identification, government papers, a recognized income source or payroll identification, and tax number. For migrant workers, much of the criteria list is impossible to achieve or has been for decades. No surprise then, money transfer services, which don’t require such paperwork, have been the standard go-to channel for sending monies back home to families being supported by the same workers in the U.S. and Canada.
However, the world changed after 9-11 and 2001, with a significant ramp-up in surveillance of Internet traffic as well as financial behavior. Both were considered primary environments by which to track and identify potential threats to U.S. security, and in the last two decades, numerous laws and resources have been put into motion to take advantage of the related information highways. Most recently, the discovery of a long-practiced program at the federal level monitoring financial money transfers in four states known to have a high population of remittance users has raised questions again with regard to how much is too much information. Arizona and California, as well as New Mexico and Texas, all border states with Mexico, have been part of a digital dragnet watching money transfers over $500 per transaction.
All major money transfer services were included in the information grab. Essentially, the company would receive a notice from the state or federal government agency involved requesting the data be turned over. Operating within the U.S. with significant investment, none of the money transfer services were going to deny the request. As a result, the federal agencies involved grabbed well over 6 million transaction records spanning a period of time from 2019 through 2022. As a result of the program’s exposure and increased public awareness, civil lawsuits have now been filed looking to limit or even shut down the program as an exercise in unauthorized, warrantless searching. Pure and simple, it operated as an open-ended dragnet spying on people in general, or at least anyone using money transfer services. Unfortunately, as mentioned above, that affects a significant portion of people who cannot or choose not to use traditional banks for money services.
Annually, the number of funds moved through remittances to Mexico exceeds $30 billion, outbound from the U.S. alone. Clearly, the activity affects both countries. It’s a significant, regular movement of cash that has an important impact on the local economies all over Mexico as relatives and families receive the funds and use them for living costs. Not only does the information capture who is sending the funds, it also captures who is receiving them as well as the recipient party in the transaction. That, of course, raises concerns about the travel of relatives to the U.S., for example, when the time comes to visit, as well as the status of those in the U.S. sending the money in the first place, especially as immigrants.
As has been seen in the past with the emergence of new technologies, the advent of data capture applied to money transfers will also be given guardrails on how to proceed, both for financial service stability as well as law enforcement and national security. But it takes time for the legal system to catch up to new applications, as the lawsuits will exhibit pending their final decisions.
In the meantime, various service providers ranging from Walmart to Western Union to Ria Money Transfer to will all function within the law and their market position to protect customers, the company’s business authorizations, and their respective role in the financial economy in general. Nobody is outside the law, even the government, but everything financial is regulated by the government as well. It’s also important to remember that money transfer providers are still one of the safest ways to move funds domestically as well as across borders. Ria alone operates in 500 different countries with offices and networks globally, as well as an online presence and transfer tool as well (https://www.riamoneytransfer.com/send-money-to-mexico).