U.S. News

Fewer Mexicans seen sending money home from U.S.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A lower percentage of Latin American workers living in the United States is sending money to family members back home, a report showed on Wednesday.

The percentage of Mexicans living in the United States who regularly sent remittances home fell to 64 percent in the first half of 2007, from 71 percent in the same period last year, the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) 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 percent this year from the average 80 percent in 2006.

“In the new destination states, around half a million migrants have stopped sending money home,” said Donald F. Terry, the IADB’s Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) official who commissioned the survey.

“This means that over the past years two million people in Mexico have lost a vital lifeline,” he added. Mexico is the primary destination for U.S. immigrant remittances.

Remittances to Mexico grew 23 percent from January to June of last year, but grew by only 0.6 per cent on the same period of 2007, according to the Central Bank of Mexico.

Remittances sent by Central American immigrants, meanwhile, grew at 11 percent in the same period.

A major difference between them is that almost all Central American immigrants live in traditional destination states, like California or Texas, while about 18 percent 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 is facing difficulties that have made them less optimistic, such as the lack of well-paying jobs, education and proficiency in English, and lack of legal immigration documents.

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

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

“They just don’t feel welcome in the United States any longer,” Bendixen said.

About one in three of the Mexicans living in the “new states” thinks they will go back to Mexico in the next five years, against one in four in more traditional states, according to the survey.

The same proportion of Mexicans think that discrimination is the main problem they face now in the United States, while Bendixen said fewer than 10 percent of Hispanics used to think that discrimination was their chief problem here.

The survey was done in June by telephone in 50 U.S. states, the margin of error is +- 3 percentage points.