Drop in Remittances Sparks Debate Between Mexico and Its Migrants

Gardenia Mendoza Aguilar and Eileen Truax, New American Media, Translated by Suzanne Manneh, August 18, 2008

NAM Editor’s Note: A Mexican government official called on Mexican workers in the United States to send more money home, but Mexican migrants did not respond favorably. Gardenia Mendoza Aguilar reports from Mexico City and Eileen Truax from Los Angeles for La Opinión.

Remittances to Mexico are down and people like Rosalinda Ortiz, who depend on money sent from the United States, are feeling the impact on their wallets. Ortiz’s husband, an undocumented immigrant who worked as a bricklayer in Wisconsin, stopped sending her money six months ago when he lost his job. Since then, he has traveled to various states in search of work: Illinois, Nevada, and even Texas, where he considered crossing the border back to Mexico.

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Most families that depend on remittances spend the money on food, medicine and their children’s education. They can’t afford to put money into savings toward building their own homes or other expenses.

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According to the Bank of Mexico, 12.6 percent of the families residing in Mexico’s municipalities receive money from the United States. Remittances are the second largest source of income for Mexico, behind oil exports.

In 2007, remittances flowing into Mexico reached a high of $23.98 billion, but the Bank of Mexico estimates that they declined by 2.2 percent in the first half of this year.

Additionally, an estimated 100,000 Mexicans have returned to their home communities so far this year as a result of their perilous economic and social situation in the United States, which may begin with the loss of a job, and end in detainment and deportation.

The Mexican Government Intervenes

The drop in remittances to Mexico has prompted Mexican Secretary of the Interior Juan Camilo Mourino to urge Mexican nationals in the United States to keep sending money and invest in their home country.

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Yet he said that the Mexican government has taken steps to prepare for the crisis, including tax incentives in marginalized communities, increased public spending and temporary employment programs for returning migrants.

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U.S. Mexicans Respond

But Mexican nationals in the United States did not react favorably to Mourino’s call to action.

While they are willing to support their home country, migrants say they expect the same from their government.

One day laborer expressed his frustration with Mourino’s speech, saying, “He wants us to send more money? Well get us more jobs.”

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Efrain Jimenez says that it is good that the Mexican government recognizes that migrants can be part of the solution and Mexico’s economic development, but added these words need to be followed by action, and the Mexican government needs to be consistent in its policy towards migrants.

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“We want the United States to recognize our matricula consulares as our official IDs, but they don’t in Mexico,” he said. “There is no consistency. They want migrants to invest in Mexico, but we can’t get a legal ID.”

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[Editor’s Note: The original article in Spanish can be read here.]

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