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Posted by on Aug 9, 2007 in At TMV | 5 comments

Sign Of Uncertain Times: Fewer Mexicans Send Money Home

It’s a sign of political uncertainty. A sign that an angry debate is being heard. It’s a sign of the times:

This year a smaller percentage of Mexican immigrants in the United States sent money back to their homeland than in 2006, according to a report released yesterday by the Inter-American Development Bank. The bank said the reduction had left at least two million people in Mexico without the same financial help they had once received.

Bank officials, pointing to a survey of Mexican immigrants in the report, said the decline reflected a rising sense of insecurity and uncertainty about whether they would stay in the United States. Anticipating a possible move back to Mexico, these immigrants appear to be saving more.

So the fiery debate in the United States over immigration, and the prospect that there will be tougher border enforcement not necessarily coupled with a program to adjust the legal status of those who are here, has put many Mexican immigrants in a holding pattern. MORE:

“They have decided because of the uncertainty of the future that they need to step back and save a bit,” said Donald F. Terry, general manager of the Multilateral Investment Fund at the bank.

Mr. Terry said the slowdown would affect about 500,000 Mexican homes. “For those families in Mexico, there is going to be economic and social dislocation,” he said.

Over all, the percentage of Mexicans who regularly sent money home fell to 64 percent in the first half of this year, compared with 71 percent for all of last year, according to the report. The sharpest decline in such transactions — known as remittances — came among Mexicans living in states where they have settled in large numbers only recently, like Georgia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. In those states, the percentage of Mexicans sending money home fell to 56 percent from January to June, from 80 percent in 2006.

In the survey, only 49 percent of the Mexicans living in states with relatively recent immigration said they expected to be living in the United States five years from now. Sergio Bendixen, a Miami pollster who conducted the survey, said the percentage of Mexicans considering a return to their country was the highest in the more than two decades he has interviewed Hispanic immigrants.

The immigrants in the survey included American citizens and legal and illegal residents. They identified discrimination as the biggest problem they faced, with 83 percent saying that discrimination against Latin American immigrants in general was growing in the United States.

“Mexican immigrants don’t feel welcome in the U.S. anymore,” Mr. Bendixen said. “They feel they are not wanted here, and their contributions are not appreciated.”

Until this year, money sent home by Mexicans working in the United States had shown spectacular annual growth since 2000, the first year it was systematically recorded by Mexico’s central bank. Last year, these funds totaled $23 billion, making them the country’s second-largest source of foreign income after oil.

There will be consequences, of course, depending on how this plays out. But even without a resolution (if Congress does nothing and the debate rages throughout election year) there could be ripples due to this situation.

What will be the impact in Mexico? What consequences will that have? Will legalized relatives of those who are here illegally cast votes influenced by the perceived new climate? What will be the impact on the industries these immigrants serve and on jobs in the U.S.? There will be a slew of things to watch aside from the political battle in Congress and within the GOP itself.