Remittances To Mexico Slow

Remittances to Mexico Slow

Fund Transfers to Relatives Hurt by Tougher U.S. Laws

By Krissah Williams
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 9, 2007; Page D03

A new national survey of Latino immigrants suggests that recently adopted state and local laws aimed at making life more difficult for illegal immigrants have slowed the growth in the flow of money sent to relatives in Mexico.

Experts who follow the money transfers, also known as familial remittances, have been confounded over why growth in the totals has leveled off in the first half of the year despite continued growth in the Mexican immigrant population. The Inter-American Development Bank sponsored a recent survey of 900 immigrants by Bendixen & Associates, a Miami firm that specializes in multi-cultural polling, to try to explain the change.

In the first six months of the year, Mexican immigrants sent $11.4 billion to their native country, according to estimates by the Central Bank of Mexico. That is about the same amount sent last year, a significant slowdown given that remittances have grown more than 10 percent a year for the past decade, reflecting population growth, said Donald F. Terry, manager of the Inter-American Development Bank's Multilateral Investment Fund.

The poll found that this year 56 percent of Mexicans living in states with newer immigrant populations sent money to their relatives back home, compared with 80 percent last year. Many of those are the same states that have passed more than 40 laws in the past two years that created harsh penalties for businesses employing illegal immigrants and landlords who board them. English-only laws also have proliferated.

More than 80 percent of the immigrants polled, a quarter of whom were employed as construction workers or day laborers, said they were having a harder time finding work because there were fewer jobs and more employers were requiring legal work documents. About half of the immigrants polled were in the country illegally, said the survey, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

“In the new destination states, around half a million migrants have stopped sending money home,” Terry said. “This means that over the past year, 2 million people in Mexico have lost a vital lifeline.”