Brazilians Leave Florida For Home

Brazilians leave Florida for home

Brazilians are returning to their homeland in record numbers after years of waiting and hoping to get their U.S. status legalized.

El Nuevo Herald
Posted on Thu, Jan. 03, 2008

Thousands of Brazilian immigrants who in the 1990s came to the United States on tourist visas and stayed to live illegally in Florida and other states are now choosing to return to their country.

Among the reasons: this summer's failure in Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform that would eventually have legalized millions of undocumented immigrants. Also, lacking proof of legal U.S. status, the undocumented migrants cannot obtain driver's licenses.

According to projections by the Brazilian Consulate in Miami, hundreds of families this year have been returning to their homeland. The consulate has observed an uptick in the number of requests for passports and identification documents, proof of residency abroad and permits for extensions on the payment of taxes, for those with one-way departure tickets.


In 2006, the number of similar departures did not go beyond 30 per month. This year, consular officials say they are processing documents at a rate of 10 per day.

''The flow of Brazilians who return home is high and definitely will continue to grow, but it's a bit early to predict the full impact this phenomenon will have,'' Consul Rafael de Mello said.

The figures cover states for which the Miami consulate has jurisdiction: Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina.

About 350,000 Brazilians live in those seven states, according to diplomatic authorities, activists and community organizations.

''There are hundreds of compatriots in Broward, Deerfield Beach and Pompano who are looking for options as they face pressure from immigration authorities, the increase in deportations and unemployment rates,'' De Mello said.

He added that some returning citizens may also be lured by the recent strengthening of Brazil's currency, the real, which has resulted in increased investment and opportunities for work.

The exodus of Brazilians from the Southeast has increased the workload of moving companies and the sale of airline tickets to Brazil.

Rafael Castilho, an administrator with BR Courier in Pompano Beach, said that this year the company was averaging 16 container moves back to Brazil each month — about 12 more per month than in 2006. And at Mario Magalhaes' travel agency in Miami, more than 45 families bought one-way tickets to Brazil in November.

Claudio Monteiro, 44, a computer specialist who arrived in Florida in 1988, has tried to sell his home in Hollywood during the past six months. He wants to be reunited with his wife, Regina, and son Vctor, 9, who are already in Brazil.


The Monteiro family had to leave South Florida in November. It was a stressful departure because last year the couple had hoped to legalize their status through an amnesty.

''Our dreams vanished when [immigration reform] failed and we started to hear that immigration raids had multiplied,'' said Monteiro, who was arrested by police in Broward in 2006 for driving with an expired license. “It was not a tranquil life for us.''

Cesar Sguario Arvalo, the Brazilian vice consul in Miami, said arrests and deportation of Brazilians in the area have risen. ''Fear has taken hold of the majority,'' Arvalo said, adding that he had counted more than 152 Brazilians in the process of being deported since August.

''Of the past 17 years, this is the worst crisis we've faced. I've never heard of so many compatriots who are saying they will return to Brazil,'' said Silair Almeida, pastor of the First Brazilian Baptist Church in Pompano Beach. “Of every 10 people, at least three are thinking of returning. The hope for many of our brothers is to grab their things and return, but I keep believing that the future continues to be in America.''


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