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LETTERS TO THE TIMES

Checks Are in the Mail

November 15, 2003

Re "Breadwinners Who Know No Borders," Commentary, Nov. 10: Roberto Suro, USC's Pew Hispanic Center Director, is on point when he writes about the economic challenges of those Latin American countries, Mexico and El Salvador, with a significant number of their nationals who reside in the U.S. and send money to their relatives back home.

As presidential elections approach in El Salvador for next spring, greater attention should be paid to this Central American country of 6.5 million people. Suro writes that one-third of the Salvadoran population receives remittances from relatives in the U.S. Without the close to $2 billion a year sent by about 1 million Salvadorans in the U.S., the Salvadoran economy would be in shambles.

Remittances have become the primary source of dollars for El Salvador as the 15-year presidential reign of the conservative right-wing Arena party has overseen an economy that has left most Salvadorans behind. The problems noted by Suro of an inefficient central government and gross economic inequalities in income distribution have become exacerbated as well because the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, the leading opposition party in El Salvador, became entrenched in its own Marxist ideology and purged its party of its moderate voices.

The candidacy of American-born Hector Silva, former mayor of San Salvador who represents a broad coalition of moderate forces, might be the best hope for democracy in El Salvador, as his government promises to decentralize a gargantuan national government to empower local economies so that real jobs are created for Salvadorans.

Suro's article is a reminder that the history of El Salvador is deeply intertwined with the relative success of Salvadorans in the U.S. and an American-born doctor might be the next president of El Salvador.

Welcome to our small world!

Edgardo Quintanilla

Sherman Oaks

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Suro presented statistics indicating over $1 billion a month is being sent to Mexico by illegal and legal immigrants. The people earning this money are taking the jobs needed by our 6% unemployed. Those statistics are very troubling, but "Nine Illegal Immigrants Arrested in Raids Sue Wal-Mart" (Nov. 10) is beyond my comprehension. It should be impossible that illegal immigrants, taking U.S. jobs, could also use our expensive court system to collect even more ill-gotten gains.

I see only one solution. Presidents Bush and Vicente Fox should agree that the door at the border swings both ways. U.S. citizens should be able to add Mexican citizenship, including privileges such as land ownership, full ownership of businesses, etc. American enterprise would rev up the Mexican economy so that Mexico could keep its citizens happy at home.

Jack Heyler

Los Angeles

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Suro writes that the remittances sent home annually by Mexican immigrants living illegally in the United States represent "a new kind of integration among nations undertaken ... by ordinary folk who ignore and even circumvent governments and financial institutions to assuage their economic woes."

While it certainly is undertaken by ordinary folk circumventing the laws of one government, it has the full support and blessing of another and is opposed by the majority of citizens of the host nation.

Suro also says that the gross inequalities in income distribution and many other factors in Mexico that helped create this situation are not going to be remedied any time soon. With the status quo serving the interests of the ruling classes of both nations so well, why would they be remedied at all?

Doug Bell

San Diego

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