Immigrants: Now asking for money from home

Written by Janet

For years, immigrants worked in this country, and sent money home to their native countries.  Now, they are wiring home asking for some of their money to be sent back.  Immigrant day laborer Leo Chamale, of Guatemala is such a case.  He hasn’t worked in five months and is two months behind in rent. 

With the U.S. economy in a ditch, money transfer agencies have been reporting a decline in the wages immigrants are sending back to their home countries. Now, it appears some immigrants are going a step further – asking their relatives to wire them money back.

Marlen Miranda, manager of Peerless Travel in Fairview, which runs a money transfer service, hasn’t seen this before….she has seen her customer base dwindle from 200 people to 75 who regularly use her money transfer services each month. Of those 75, Miranda said, about 20 now come in to receive money instead of sending it home.

What isn’t known though, is exactly how much money is being sent back to the US.  Banks in foreign countries often track only money sent into the country by their citizens living abroad.   But clearly, these “reverse remittances” – as the money wired back to the U.S. is called – are extremely small when compared to the money immigrants send home.

Last year, immigrants working in the US sent home more than $50 billion to their native countries.  central bank said remittances sent to that country are down more than 18 percent in the past year, and registered their biggest decline on record in April.

Dilip Ratha, World Bank economist, says he devised his own measure of how much money is sent back to immigrants living in the U.S. and other countries. Analyzing foreign currency deposits in the Dominican Republic, Mexico and India from February 2008 to January 2009, Ratha found that immigrants from those countries tapped into their savings accounts – money they had previously wired home – at an accelerated rate as the global economy worsened.

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