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Fewer Mexicans sending money home, study says

August 09, 2007|From Reuters

WASHINGTON — A lower percentage of Mexican workers in the U.S. is sending money to family members back home, a report showed Wednesday.

The percentage of workers who regularly sent remittances home fell to 64% in the first half of 2007 from 71% in the same period last year, the Inter-American Development Bank said in a study of remittance patterns.

The reduction was deepest in 40 U.S. states where Latin American immigration is a more recent trend, such as Georgia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, where it plunged to 56% this year from the average 80% in 2006.

"In the new destination states, around half a million migrants have stopped sending money home," said Donald F. Terry, the bank's Multilateral Investment Fund official who commissioned the survey.

"This means that over the past years 2 million people in Mexico have lost a vital lifeline," he said. Mexico is the primary destination for U.S. immigrant remittances.

Remittances to Mexico grew 23% from January to June of last year but grew only 0.6% in the same period this year, according to the Central Bank of Mexico.

Remittances sent by Central American immigrants grew 11% in the same period.

A major difference between the two groups is that almost all Central American immigrants live in traditional destination states, such as California and Texas, while about 18% of Mexicans have spread to the new destination states.

"They have been more adventurous and more aggressive in the search for new jobs," said pollster Sergio Bendixen of Bendixen & Associates, a Miami-based firm that conducted the survey.

Bendixen says this group of Mexicans faces difficulties that have made them less optimistic, such as the lack of well-paying jobs, education and proficiency in English, as well as difficulty getting immigration documents.

He also suggested that immigrants might be saving more money instead of sending it abroad because they feel uncertainty about their future.

About half of the 900 immigrants, Mexican and Central American, interviewed for the survey were illegal immigrants, he added.

"They just don't feel welcome in the United States any longer," Bendixen said.

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