April 30, 2008 / 5:34 PM / 11 years ago

Fewer U.S. immigrants sending money to Latin America

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Fewer immigrants in the United States are sending money home to Latin America due to the U.S. economic slowdown and a harsher immigration climate, Inter-American Development Bank survey said on Wednesday.

“Three million fewer families will be receiving money in 2008 (in the region)” said Donald F. Terry, IADB’s Multilateral Investment Fund general manager, at a news conference.

As a result, about 10 million fewer people will benefit from those cash transfers and about 2 million families could fall below the poverty line, especially in Mexico, he added.

The volume of cash transfers would remain largely unchanged in 2008, only $500 million higher than in 2006, the last time the state-by-state survey was conducted

The amount of cash transfers was projected to rise slightly, however, as $45.9 billion should be sent this year, up $500 million from 2006, the last time the state-by-state survey was conducted.

Only 50 percent of the estimated 18.9 million Latino immigrants were sending money to their families on a regular basis last February when the poll was conducted. That compares with 73 per cent in a similar study in 2006, or 3.2 million fewer people, the IADB said.

Most immigrants — 81 percent — said it was now more difficult to find good-paying jobs and 28 percent said they were thinking about returning to their countries. Many stopped sending money home due to a growing climate of discrimination.

“They are feeling fear and uncertainty about the future,” said Sergio Bendixen, a Miami-based pollster who conducted the survey.

Almost half of the 5,000 adult immigrants interviewed were illegal and the sharpest drop in transfers should happen in states that have adopted tougher immigration laws, such as Pennsylvania (28 percent drop), Georgia (17 percent drop) and Maryland (11 percent drop), Bendixen said.

Ten U.S. states will top more than $1 billion in remittances this year. They are California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, Georgia, Arizona, North Carolina and Virginia.

The survey was conducted beginning in February in Spanish and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.4 percentage points.

Reporting by Adriana Garcia, editing by Daniel Bases and Kenneth Barry

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